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ALCESTIS 



THE 

ALCESTIS 



OF 



EURIPIDES 



TRANSLATED INTO KNGUSH RHYMING VERSE 
WITH EXPLANATORY NOTES BY 

GILBERT MURRAY 

LUX, D.LlTT., F.H.A. 

KF,(Ur i ; I'R|)FKH!(i[{ OK (HtKKK IN TUB VNIVKKSITV OK OXFMUN 



LONDON: GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN LTD. 
RUSK1N HOUSE 40 MUSEUM STREET, W.C. i 



First fttblishctt c1/|Hs/, 

Rcpr iuicil . . . A/fiv, 1*7/7 

Reprinted . 



(/I// r/^/i/< rcwtvrtl) 



INTRODUCTION 

TUK JicMtJs would hardly confirm its author's right 
to be acclaimed " the most tragic of the poets." It 
is doubtful whether one can call it a tragedy at all. 
Yet it remains one of the most characteristic and 
delightful of Kuripidean dramas, as well as, by modern 
standards, the most easily actable, And I notice that 
many judges who display nothing but a fierce satisfac- 
tion in sending other plays of that author to the block 
or the treadmill, show a certain human weakness in 
sentencing the gentle daughter of Peiias, 

The play has been interpreted in many different 
ways. There is the old unsophisticated view, well 
set forth in Palcy's preface of 1872. He regards the 
Alcestls simply as a triumph of pathos, especially of 
a that peculiar sort of pathos which comes most home 
to us, with our views and partialities for domestic life. 
... As for the characters, that of Alcestis must be 
acknowledged to be pre-eminently beautiful. One 
could almost imagine that Euripides had not yet 
conceived that bad opinion of the sex which so many 
of the subsequent dramas exhibit. . . . But the restate 
hardly well-drawn, or, at least, pleasingly portrayed." 
14 The poet might perhaps, had he pleased, have ex- 
hibited Admetus in a more amiable point of view/* 

v 



INTRODUCTION 

This criticism is not very trenchant, but its weak- 
ness is due, 1 think, more to timidity of statement 
than to lack of perception. Paley docs see that a 
character may be " well-drawn " without necessarily 
being " pleasing " j and even that he may be eminently 
pleasing as a part of the play while very displeasing in 
himself, He sees that Euripides may have had his 
own reasons fur not making Admetus an ideal husband. 
It seems odd that such points should need mention- 
ing ; but Greek drama has always suffered from a 
school of critics who approach a play with a greater 
equipment of aesthetic theory than of dramatic percep- 
tion. This is the characteristic defect of classicism. 
One mark of the school is to demand from dramatists 
heroes and heroines which shall satisfy its own ideals ; 
and, though there was in the New Comedy a mask 
known to Pollux as "The Entirely-good Young 
Man " (nay\prifTT<)(j VWVI<TK<H:\ such a character is 
fortunately unknown to classical Greek drama. 

The influence of this "classicist'* tradition has led 
to a timid and unsatisfying treatment of the Alcest'is, 
in which many of the most striking and uncon- 
ventional features of the whole composition were 
either ignored or smoothed away. As a natural 
result, various lively-minded readers proceeded to over- 
emphasize these particular features, and were carried 
into eccentricity or paradox. Alfred Sehone, for 
instance, fixing his attention on just those paints 
which the conventional critic passed over, decides 
simply that the /ilcntis is> a parody, and finds it very 
funny. (Die dlknth von Knripifln, Kiel, 1895.) 

I will not dwell on other criticisms of this type. 
There are those who have taken the play for a 



INTRODUCTION 

criticism of contemporary politics or the current law 
of inheritance. Above all there is the late Dr. 
Verrall's famous essay in Euripides the Rationalist^ 
explaining it as a, psychological criticism of a supposed 
Delphic miracle, and arguing that Alcestis in the play 
does not rise from the dead at all. She had never 
really died ; she only had a sort of nervous catalepsy 
induced by all the a suggestion " of death by which 
she was surrounded, Now Dr. Verrall's work, as 
always, stands apart. Even if wrong, it has Its own 
excellence, its special insight and its extraordinary 
awakening power. But in general the effect of 
reading many criticisms on the Alcestis is to make a 
scholar realize that, for all the seeming simplicity of 
the play, competent Grecians have been strangely 
bewildered by it, and that after all there is no great 
reason to suppose that he himself is more sensible 
than his neighbours. 

This is depressing. None the less I cannot really 
believe that, if we make patient use of our available 
knowledge, the Alccstis presents any startling enigma. 
In the first place, it has long been known from the 
remnants of the ancient Didascalia, or official notice 
of production, that the Akestit was produced as the 
fourth play of a series ; that is, it took the place of a 
Satyr-play. It is what we may call Pro-satyric. (See 
the present writer's introduction to the Rht'ws,) And 
we should note for what it is worth the observation in 
the ancient Greek argument : "The play is somewhat 
satyr-like (ffarvfUKMnpnv). It ends in rejoicing and 
gladness against the tragic convention." 

Mow we are of late years beginning to understand 
much better what a Satyr-play was. Satyrs have, of 
vii 



INTRODUCTION 

course, nothing to do with satire, either etymologi- 
cally or otherwise. Satyrs are the attendant daemons 
who form the Komos, or revel rout, of Dionysus. 
They are represented in divers fantastic forms, the 
human or divine being; mixed with that of some 

o 

animal, especially the horse or wild goat. Like 
Dionysus himself, they arc connected in ancient 
religion with the Renewal of the Earth in spring 
and the resurrection of the dead, a point which stu- 
dents of the Akestls may well remember* I? But in 
general they represent mere joyous creatures of nature, 
un thwarted by law and unchecked by self-control 
Two notes are especially struck by them : the pas- 
sions and the absurdity of half-drunken revellers, 
and the joy and mystery of the wild things in the 
forest. 

The rule was that after three tragedies proper there 
came a play, still in tragic diction, with a traditional 
saga plot and heroic characters, in which the Chorus 
was formed by these Satyrs. There was a deliberate 
clash, an effect of burlesque ; but of course the clash 
must not be too brutal. Certain characters of the 
heroic saga arc, so to speak, at home with Satyrs and 
others are not. To take our extant specimens of 
Satyr-plays, for instance : in the Cyclops we have 
Odysseus, the heroic trickster ; in the fragmentary 
Ichneutat of Sophocles we have the Nymph Cyllcnc, 
hiding the baby Hermes from the chorus by the most 
barefaced and pleasant lying ; later no doubt there was 
an entrance of the infant thief himself, Autolycus, 
Sisyphus, Thersites arc all Satyr-play heroes and con- 
genial to the Satyr atmosphere ; but the most congenial 
of all, the one hero who existed always in an atmo* 
viii 



INTRODUCTION 

sphere oi Satyrs and the Komos until Euripides made 
him the central figure of a tragedy, was Heracles. 1 

The complete Satyr-play had a hero of this type 
and a Chorus of Satyrs. But the complete type was 
refined away during the fifth century ; and one stage 
in the process produced a play with a normal chorus 
but with one figure of the Salyric or "revelling" type. 
One might almost say the " comic " type if, for the 
moment, we may remember that that word is directly 
derived from "Komos." 

The Alcesth is a very clear instance of this Pro- 
satyric class of play. It has the regular tragic diction, 
marked here and there (393, 756, 780, etc.) by 
slight extravagances and forms of words which are 
sometimes epic and sometimes over-colloquial ; it lias 
a regular saga plot, which had already been treated by 
the old poet Phrynichus in his Jlccstls^ a play which 
is now lost but seems to have been Satyric ; and it has 
one character straight from the Satyr world, the heroic 
reveller, Heracles. It is all in keeping that he should 
arrive tired, should feast and drink and sing ; should be 
suddenly sobered and should go forth to battle with 
Death. It is also in keeping that the contest should 
have a half-grotesque and half-ghastly touch, the 
grapple amid the graves and the cracking ribs. 

So much for the traditional form. As for the 
subject, Euripides received it from Phrynichus, and 

1 The character oi' Heniclci; in connexion with the 
Komos, already indicated by Wilamowilz and Diclcrich 
(flcraklc*?, pp. 98, ff, ; Pukinclla, pp. 63, ff.), has been illu- 
miuatiugly developed in an unpublished monograph by 
Mr. J, A. K. Thomson, of Aberdeen, 
ix 



INTRODUCTION 

doubtless from other sources. We cannot be sure of 
the exact form of the story in Phrynichus. But 
apparently It told how Admctus, King of Pherae in 
Thessaly, received from Apollo a special privilege 
which the God had obtained, in true Satyric style, by 
making the Three Fates drunk and cajoling them. 
This was that, when his appointed time for death 
came, he might escape if he could find some volunteer 
to die for him. His dither and mother, from whom 
the service might have been expected, refused to per- 
form it. His wife, Alcestis, though no blood relation, 
handsomely undertook it and died. But it so happened 
that Admetus had entertained in his house the demi- 
god, Heracles; and when Heracles heard what had 
happened, he went out and wrestled with Death, 
conquered him, and brought Alcestis home. 

Given this form and this story, the next question 
is : What did Euripides make of them ? The general 
answer is clear : he has applied his usual method. He 
accepts the story as given in the tradition, and then 
represents it in his own way. When the tradition in 
question is really heroic, we know what his way is. 
He preserves, and even emphasizes, the stateliness and 
formality of the Attic stage conventions ; but, in the 
meantime, he has subjected the story and its characters 
to a keener study and a more sensitive psychological 
judgment than the simple things were originally meant 
to bear. So that many characters which passed as heroic, 
or at least presentable, in the kindly remoteness of 
legend, reveal some stnm^e weakircss when brought 
suddenly into the light. When the tradition is Satyric, 
as here, the same process produces almost an opposite 
effect It is somewhat as though the main plot of a 



INTRODUCTION 

gross and jolly farce were pondered over and made 
more true to human character till it emerged as a re- 
fined and rather pathetic comedy. The making drunk 
of the Three Grey Sisters disappears ; one can only 
just see the trace of its having once been present. The 
revelling of Heracles is touched in with the lightest 
of hands ; it is little more than symbolic. And all 
the figures in the story, instead of being left broadly 
comic or having their psychology neglected, are 
treated delicately, sympathetically, with just that faint 
touch of satire, or at least of amusement, which is 
almost inseparable from a close interest in character. 

What was Admetus really like, this gallant prince 
who had won the affection of such great guests as 
Apollo and Heracles, and yet went round asking 
other people to die for him ; who, in particular, 
accepted his wife's monstrous sacrifice with satisfac- 
tion and gratitude ? The play portrays him well. 
Generous, innocent, artistic, affectionate, eloquent, 
impulsive, ;i good deal spoilt, unconsciously insincere, 
and no doubt fundamentally selfish, he hates the 
thought of dying and he hates losing his wife almost 
as much. Why need she die ? Why could it not 
have been some one less important to him ? He feels 
with emotion what a beautiful act it would have been 
for his old father. " My boy, you have a long and 
happy life before you, and for me the sands are well- 
nMi run out. Do nut seek, to dissuade me. I will 

o 

die for you." Ad nidus could compose the speech 
for him. A touching su-ne, a noble farewell, and all 
the divadful trouble solved so conveniently solved ! 
Ami the miserable self-blinded old man could not 

sec it ! 

xi 



INTRODUCTION 

Euripides seems to have taken positive pleasure in 
Admetus, much as Meredith did in his famous Egoist ; 
but Euripides all through is kinder to his victim than 
Meredith is. True, Admetus is put to obvious shame, 
publicly and helplessly. The Chorus make discreet 
comments upon him. The Handmaid is outspoken 
about him. One feels that Alccstis herself, for 
all her tender kindness, has seen through him. 
Finally, to make things quite clear, his old father 
fights him openly, tells him home-truth upon home- 
truth, tears away all his protective screens, and leaves 
him with his self-respect in tatters. It is a fearful 
ordeal for Admetus, and, after his first fury, he takes 
it well. He comes back from his wife's burial a 
changed man. He says not much, but enough, " I 
have done wrong. I have only now learnt my lesson. 
I imagined I could save my happy life by forfeiting 
my honour; and the result is that I have lost both." 
I think that a careful reading of the play will show 
an almost continuous process of self-discovery and 
self-judgment in the mind of Admetus. He was a 
man who blinded himself with words and beautiful 
sentiments; but he was not thick-skinned or thick- 
witted. He was not a brute or a cynic. And 1 
think he did learn his lesson . . . not completely 
and for ever, but as well as must of us learn such 
lessons. 

The beauty of Alcestb is quite untouched by the 
dramatist's keener analysis. The strong light only 
increases its effect. Yet she is not by any means a 
mere blameless ideal heroine ; and the character which 
Euripides gives her makes an admirable foil to that of 
Admetus, Where he is passionate and romantic, she 
xii 



INTRODUCTION 

is simple and homely. While he is still refusing to 
admit the facts and beseeching her not to "desert" him, 
she in a gentle but businesslike way makes him 
promise to take care of the children and, above nil 
things, not to marry again. She could not possiblv 
trust Adrnelus's choice. She is sure that the step- 
mother would he unkind to the children. She mi^ht 

o 

be a horror and heat them (1. 307 ). And when Admetus 
has made a thrilling answer about eternal sorrow, and 
the silencing of lyre and lute, and the statue who 
shall be his only bride, Alceslis earnestly calls the 
attention of witnesses to the fact that he has sworn 
not to marry again. She is not an artist like Admetus. 
There is poetry in her, because poetry comes un- 
consciously out of deep feeling, but there is no 
artistic eloquence. Her love, too, is quite different 
from his. To him, his love for his wife and 
children is a beautiful thing, a subject to speak 
and sing about as well as an emotion to feel. 
But her love is hardly conscious. She docs not talk 
about it at all. She is merely wrapped up in the 
welfare of certain people, first her husband and then 
the children. To a modern romantic reader her 
insistence that her husband shall not marry again 
seems hardly delicate. But she does not think about 
romance or delicacy* To her any neglect to ensure 
due protection for the children would be as unnatural 
as to refuse to die for her husband. Indeed, Professor 
J. L. Myrcs has suggested that care for the children's 
future is the guiding motive of her whole conduct. 
There was first the danger of their being left fatherless, 
a dire calamity in the heroic age. She could meet that 
danger by dying herself. Then followed the 
xiii 



INTRODUCTION 

of a stepmother* She meets that by making Admetus 
swear never to marry. In the long run, I fancy, the 
effect of gracious loveliness which Alcestis certainly 
makes is not so much due to any words of her 
own as to what the Handmaid and the Serving Man 
say about her. In the final scene she is silent ; 
necessarily and rightly silent, for all tradition knows 
that those new-risen from the dead must not speak. 
It will need a long rite de passage before she can 
freely commune with this world again. It is a strange 
and daring scene between the three of them ; the 
humbled and broken-hearted husband ; the triumphant 
Heracles, kindly and wise, yet still touched by the 
mocking and blustrous atmosphere from which he 
sprang ; and the silent woman who has seen the 
other side of the grave. It was always her way to 
know things but not to speak of them. 

The other characters fall easily into their niches. 
We have only to remember the old Satyric tradition 
and to look at them in the light of their historical 
development. Heracles indeed, half-way on his road 
from the roaring reveller of the Satyr-play to the 
suffering and erring deliverer of tragedy, is a little 
foreign to our notions, but quite intelligible and 
strangely attractive. The same historical method 
seems to me to solve most of the difficulties which 
have been felt about Admetus's hospitality. Heracles 
arrives at the castle just at the moment when Alcestis 
is lying dead in her room ; Admetus conceals the 
death from him and insists on his coming in and 
enjoying himself, What arc we to think of this 
behaviour f Is it magnificent hospitality, or is it gross 
want of tact ? The answer, I think, is indicated above* 
xiv 



INTRODUCTION 

In the uncritical and boisterous atmosphere of the 
Satyr-play it was natural hospitality, not especially 
laudable or surprising. From the analogy of similar 
stories I suspect that Admetus originally did not know 
his guest, and received not so much the reward of 
exceptional virtue as the blessing naturally due to 
those who entertain angels unawares. If we insist on 
asking whether Euripides himself, in real life or in a 
play of his own free invention, would have considered 
Admetus's conduct to Heracles entirely praiseworthy, 
the answer will certainly be No, but it will have 
little hearing on the play. In the Alcest'is^ as it 
stands, the famous act of hospitality is a datum of the 
story. Its claims are admitted on the strength of 
the tradition. It was the act for which Admetus 
was specially and marvellously rewarded ; therefore, 
obviously, it was an act of exceptional merit and piety. 
Yet the admission is made with a smile, and more 
than one suggestion is allowed to float across the 
scene that in real life such conduct would be hardly 
wise. 

Hc'.raclcs, who rose to tragic rank from a very 
homely cycle of myth, was apt to bring other homely 
characters with him. He was a great killer not only 
of malefactors but of "kcrcs" or bogeys, such us 
" Old Age" and "Ague" and the sort "of " Death " 
that we find in this play. Thanatos is not a god, not 
at all a King of Terrors, One may compare him 
with the dancing skeleton who is called Death in 
mediaeval writings. When such a figure appears on 
the tragic stage one asks at once what relation he 
bears to Hades, the great Olympian king of the 
unseen* The answer is obvious. Thanatos is the 
xv 



INTRODUCTION 

servant of Hades, a "priest" or sacrificer, who is sent 
to fetch the appointed victims. 

The other characters speak for themselves. Cer- 
tainly Pheres can be trusted to do so, though we must 
remember that we sec him at an unfortunate moment. 
The aged monarch is not at his best, except perhaps 
in mere fighting power. I doubt if he was really as 
cynical as he here professes to be. 

In the above criticisms I feel that I may have clone 
what critics are so apt to do. I have dwelt on 
questions of intellectual interest and perhaps thereby 
diverted attention from that quality in the play which 
is the most important as well as by far the hardest to 
convey ; I mean the sheer beauty and delightful- 
ness of the writing. It is the earliest elated play of 
Euripides which has come down to us. True, ho was 
over forty when he produced it, but it is noticeably 
different from the works of his old age. The numbers 
are smoother, the thought less deeply scarred, the 
language more charming and less passionate. If it be 
true that poetry is bred out of joy and sorrow, one feels 
as if more enjoyment and less suffering had gone to 
the making of the Aimth than to that of the ktrr 
plays. 



xvi 



ALCESTIS 



CHARACTERS OF THE PLAY 

ADMETUS, King of Pherae in Thessaty. 

ALCRSTIS, daughter of PC lias t his wife. 

PHERKS, his father , formerly King but now in retirement. 

Two CHILDREN, his son and daughter. 

A MANSERVANT m his house, 

A IlANDMAtD. 

The Hero HERACLES. 

The God APOLLO. 

THANATOS or DEATH. 

CHORUS, consisting of Elders of Pherae. 



" The play was first performed when Glankhios was Archon^ in 
the 2nd year of the %$th Olympiad (^^ B.C:.). Sophochs was fin/, 
Euripides second ivith the Cretan Women ^ Alonaeon in Fsophis^ 
TeUphits and Akestis. . The play is somewhat Satyric in 
character" 



ALCESTIS 

The scene represents the ancient Castle of ADMETUS near 
Pherae In Themly, It u the dusk before dawn ; 
APOLLO, radiant in the darkness, loots at the Castle, 

APOLLO. 

Admetus' House ! 'Twas here I bowed my head 
Of old, and chafed not at the bondman's bread, 
Though born in heaven. Aye, Zeus to death had 

hurled 

My son, Asclepios, Healer of the World, 
Piercing with fire his heart ; and in mine ire 
I slew his Cyclop churls, who forged the fire, 
Whereat Zeus cast me forth to bear the yoke 
Of service to a mortal. To this folk 
I came, and watched a stranger's herd for pay, 
And all his house I have prospered to this day, 
For innocent was the Lord I chanced upon 
And clean as mine own heart, King Pheres' son, 
Admetus, Him I rescued from the grave, 
Beguiling the Grey Sisters till they gave 
A great oath that Admetus should go free, 
Would he but pay to Them Below in fee 
Another living soul. Long did he prove 
All that were his, and all that owed him love, 
But never a soul he found would yield up life 

3 



EURIPIDES w. 18-38 

And leave the sunlight for him, save his wife : 
Who, even now, down the long galleries 
Is borne, death-wounded ; for this day it is 
She needs must pass out of the light and die. 
And, seeing the stain of death must not come nigh 
My radiance, I must leave this house I love. 

But ha ! The Headsman of the Pit, above 
Earth's floor, to ravish her ! Aye, long and late 
He hath watched, and cometh at the fall of fate. 

Enter from the other side THANATOS ; a crouching 
Hack-haired and winged figure, carrying a drawn 
sword* He starts in revulsion on seeing APOLLO. 

THANATOS. 
Aha! 
Why here ? What mak'st thou at the gate, 

Thou Thing of Light ? Wilt overtread 
The eternal judgment, and abate 

And spoil the portions of the dead ? 
'Tis not enough for thee to have blocked 

In other days Admetus 1 doom 
With craft of magic wine, which mocked 

The three grey Sisters of the Tomb ; 
But now once more 

I see thee stand at watch, and shake 

That arrow-armed hand to make 
This woman thine, who swore, who swore, 

To die now for her husband's Jike. 

APOLLO. 
Fear not. 

I bring fair words and seek but what is just 
4 



Wi 39-49 ALCl/STIb 

THANATOS (sneering). 
And if words help thce not, an arrow must? 

APOLLO. 
'Tis ever my delight to bear this bow. 

THANATOS, 
And aid this house unjustly ? Aye, 'tis so. 

APOLLO. 
I love this man, and grieve for his dismay. 

THANATOS. 
And now wilt rob me of my second prey ! 

APOLLO. 
I never robbed thee, neither then nor now. 

THANATOS. 
Why is Admctus here then, not below ? 

APOLLO. 
He gave for ransom his own wife, for whom . , . 

THANATOS (interrupting). 
I am come j and straight will bear her to the tomb. 

APOLLO. 
Go, take her. 1 I can never move thine heart 

THANATOS (mocking)* 

To slay the doomed ? Nay 5 I will do my part. 
5 



EURIPIDES w. 50-59 

APOLLO. 
No. To keep death for them that linger late* 

THANATOS (still mocking). 

'Twould please thec, so? ... I owe tlice homage 
great. 

APOLLO. 
Ah, then she mav vet ... she may yet grow oM ? 

THANATOS (with a laugh). 
No ! ... I too have my rights, and them I hold. 

APOLLO. 
*Tis but one life thou gainest either- wise. 

THANATOS, 
When young souls die, the richer is my prize. 

APOLLO. 
Old, with great riches they will bury her. 

THANATOG, 
Fie on thee, fie ! Thou rich-man's lawgiver ! 

APOLLO. 
How ? Is there wit in Death, who seemed so blind ? 

THANATOS. 
The rich would buy long life for all their kind. 



vv.6o- 7 6 ALCEST1S 

APOLLO. 
Thou wilt not grant me, then, this boon ? 'Tis so ? 

THANATOS. 
Thou knowest me, what I am : I tell thee, no ! 

APOLLO. 
I know gods sicken ut thcc and men pine. 

THANATOS. 

Begone ! Too many things not meant for thine 
Thy greed hath conquered j but not all, not all ! 

APOLLO. 

i swear, for all thy bitter pride, a fall 
Awaits thee. One even now comes conquering 
Towards this house, sent by a southland king 
To fetch him four wild coursers, of the race 
Which rend men's bodies in the winds of Thrace. 
This house shall give him welcome good, and he 
Shall wrest this woman from thy worms and thce 
So thoti shalt give me all, and thereby win 
But hatred, not the grace that might have been, 

[Exit APOLLO. 

TUANATOS, 

Talk on, talk un ! Thy threats shall win no bride 
From me. This woman, whatsoe'er betide, 
Shall lie in Hades 1 house. Even. 'it the word 
I go to lav upon her hair my sword. 
For all whose head this grey sword visitcth 
To death are hallowed and the Lords of death. 

7 



EURIPIDES vv. 77-94 

[THANATOS goes Into the house. Presently, as 
the day grows tighter^ the CHORUS enters : 
it consists of Citizens of Pherde, who speak 
severally. 

CHORUS. 

LEADER, 
Quiet, quiet, above, beneath ! 

SECOND ELDER. 
The house of Admetus holds its breath. 

THIRD ELDER. 

And never a King's friend near, 
To tell us either of tears to shed 
For Pelias' daughter, crowned and dead ; 

Or joy, that her eyes are clear. 
Bravest, truest of wives is she 
That I have seen or the world shall see, 

DIVERS CITIZENS, conversing. 
(The dash indicates a new speaker.) 

Hear ye no sob, or noise of hands 

Beating the breast ? No mourners* cries 
For one they cannot save ? 

Nothing : and at the door there stands 

No handmaid. Help, O Paian ; rise, 
O star beyond the wave ! 

Dead, and this quiet ? No, it cannot be* 

Dead, dead ! Not gone to burial secretly ! 



vv. 95-123 ALCESTlfc 

Why ? I still fear : what makes your speech 

brave ? 

Admetus cast that dear wife to the grave 

Alone, with none to see ? 

I see no bowl of clear spring water. 

It ever stands before the dread 

Door where a dead man rests. 

- No lock of shorn hair ! Every daughter 

Of woman shears it for the dead. 

No sound of bruised breasts ! 

Yet 'tis this very day . . . This very day ? 

The Queen should pass and lie beneath the clay 

It hurts my life, my heart ! All honest hearts 
Must sorrow for a brightness that departs, 

A good life worn away, 

LEADER. 

To wander o'er leagues of land, 
To search over wastes of sea. 
Where the Prophets of Lycia stand, 

Or where Ammon's daughters three 
Make runes in the rainless sand, 
For magic to make her free 
Ah, vain ! for the end is here ; 
Sudden it comes and sheer. 
What lamb on the altar-strand 
Stricken shall comfort me ? 

SECOND ELDER. 
Only, only one, I know : 
Apollo's son was he, 

9 



EURIPIDES w, 124-143 

Who healed men long ago. 

Were he but on earth to see, 
She would rise from the dark below 
And the gates of eternity. 
For men whom the Gods had slain 
He pitied and raised again ; 
Till God's fire laid him low, 
And now, what help have we ? 

OTHERS. 

Ail's done that can be. Every vow 
Full paid ; and every altar's brow 

Full crowned with spice of sacrifice. 
No help remains nor respite now. 

Enter from the Castle a HANDMAID, almost in tears. 

LEADER, 

But see, a handmaid cometh, and the tear 

Wet on her check ! What tiding shall we hear ? . . , 

Thy grief is natural, daughter, if some ill 
Hath fallen to-day. Say, is she living still 
Or dead, your mistress ? Speak, if speak you may. 

MAID, 
Alive. No, dead, ... Oh, read it cither way. 

LEADER. 
Nay, daughter, can the same soul live and die ? 

MAID. 

Her life is broken ; death is in her eye, 
10 



vv. 144-158 ALCESTIS 

LEADER. 
Poor King, to think what she was, and what thou ! 

MAID. 
He never knew her worth. ... He will know it now 

LEADER, 
There is no hope, methinks, to save her still ? 

MAID, 
The hour is come, and breaks all human will 

LEADER. 
She hath such tendance as the dying crave ? 

MAID, 
For sure : and rich robes ready for her grave. 

LEADER. 

'Fore God, she dies high-hearted, aye, and far 
In honour raised above all wives that are ! 

MAID. 

Far above all ! How other ? What must she. 
Who seeketh to surpass this woman, be ? 
Or how could any wife more shining make 
Her lord's love, than by dying for his sake ? 
But thus much all the city knows. 'Tis here, 
In her own rooms, the tale will touch thine eai 
With strangeness. When she knew the d 
come, 

n 



EURIPIDES w. 159-187 

'She rose and washed her body, white as foam, 
With running water ; then the cedarn press 
She opened, and took forth her funeral dress 
And rich adornment. So she stood arrayed 
Before the Hearth-Fire of her home, and prayed : 
" Mother, since I must vanish from the day, 
This last, last time I kneel to thee and pray ; 
Be mother to my two children ! Find some dear 
Helpmate for him, some gentle lord for her. 
And let not them, like me, before their hour 
Die ; let them live in happiness, in our 
Old home, till life be full and age content." 

To every household altar then she went 
And made for each his garland of the green 
Boughs of the wind-blown myrtle, and was seen 
Praying, without a sob, without a tear. 
She knew the dread thing corning, but her clear 
Cheek never changed : till suddenly she fled 
Back to her own chamber and bridal bed : 
Then came the tears and she spoke all her 
thought, 

" bed, whereon my laughing girlhood's knot 
Was severed by this man, for whom I die, 
Farewell ! 'Tis thou ... I speak not bitterly. . . 
Tis thou hast slain me. All alone I go 
Lest I be false to him or thee. And lo, 
Some woman shall lie here instead of me 
Happier perhaps 5 more true she cannot be." 

She kissed the pillow as she knelt, and wet 
With flooding tears was that fair coverlet, 

At last she had had her fill of weeping ; then 
She tore herself away, and rose again. 
Walking with downcast eyes ; yet turned before 
12 



w. 188-212 ALCESTIS 

She had left the room, and cast her down one 

more 

Kneeling beside the bed. Then to her side 
The children came, and clung to her and cried, 
And her arms hugged them, and a long good-bye 
She gave to each, like one who goes to die. 
The whole house then was weeping, every slave 
In sorrow for his mistress, And she gave 
Her hand to all ; aye, none so base was there 
She gave him not good words and he to her. 

So on Admetus falls from either side 
Sorrow. 'Twere bitter grief to him to have died 
Himself ; and being escaped, how sore a woe 
He hath earned instead Ah, some day he shal 

know ! 

LEADER. 

Surely Admetus suffers, even to-day, 

For this true-hearted love he hath cast away ? 

MAID. 

He weeps ; begs her not leave him desolate. 
And holds her to his heart too late, too late ! 
She is sinking now, and there, beneath his eye 
Fading, the poor cold hand falls languidly, 
And faint is all her breath. Yet still she fain 
Would look once on the sunlight once again 
And never more. I will go in and tell 
Thy presence. Few there be, will serve so well 
My master and stand by him to the end. 
But thou hast been from olden days our friend. 

[The MAID goes* in. 



EURIPIDES w, 213-22 

CHORUS. 
THIRD ELDER, 

O Zeus, 
What escape and where 

From the evil thing ? 
How break the snare 

That is round our King ? 

SECOND EIDER, 

Ah list ! 

One cometh ? . . . No, 
Let us no more wait 5 
Make dark our raiment 
And shear this hair, 

LEADER, 

Aye, friends ! 
'Tis so, even so. 
Yet the gods are great 
And may send allayment. 
To prayer, to prayer ! 

ALL (fraying), 
Paian wise ! 

Some healing of this home devise, devise ! 
Find, find. . . . Oh, long ago when we were blind 
Thine eyes saw mercy . . . find some healing 

breath ! 

Again, Paian, break the chains that bind ; 
Stay the red hand of Death ! 
14 



w. 226-237 ALCESTIS 

LEADER, 
Alas! 
What shame, what dread, 

Thou Pheres* son, 
Shalt be harvested 
When thy wife Is gone ! 

SECOND ELDER. 
Ah me ; 

For a deed less drear 
Than this them ruest 

Men have died for sorrow ; 
Aye, hearts have bled. 

THIRD ELDER, 
Tis she ; 

Not as men say dear, 
But the dearest, truest, 
Shall lie ere morrow 
Before thee dead ! 

An. 

But lo ! Once more ! 
She and her husband moving to the door ! 
Cry, cry ! And thou, () land of Pherae, hearken ! 

The bravest of women sinkcth, pcrishcth, 
Under the green earth, down where the shadows 

darken. 
Down to the House of Death ! 

[During the last words ADMETUS and ALCESTIS 
have entered. ALCESTIS is supported by her 
Handmaids and followed by her two children. 



EURIPIDES w, 238-257 

LEADER. 
And who hath said that Love shall bring 

More joy to man than fear and strife ? 
I knew his perils from of old, 
I know them now, when I behold 

The bitter faring of my King, 
Whose love is taken, and his life 

Left evermore an empty thing. 

ALCESTIS. 

Sun, light of the day that falls ! 
O running cloud that races along the sky ! 

ADMETUS. 

They look on thee and me, a stricken twain, 
Who have wrought no sin that God should have 
thee slain. 

ALCESTIS. 

Dear Earth, and House of sheltering walls, 
And wedded homes of the land where my fathers lie ! 

ADMETUS. 

Fail not, my hapless one. Be strong, and pray 
The o'er-mastering Gods to hate us not alway. 

ALCESTIS (faint ly^ her mind wandering). 
A boat two-oared, upon water ; I see, I see, 

And the Ferryman of the Dead, 
His hand that hangs on the pole, his voice that cries ; 
" Thou lingerest ; come. Come quickly, we wait for 

thee/ 

He is angry that I am slow ; he shakes his head, 
16 



w. 258-276 ALCESTIS 

ADMETUS. 

Alas, a bitter boat-faring for me, 
My bride ill-starred. Oh, this is misery ! 

ALCESTIS (as before}. 
Drawing, drawing I 'Tis some one that draweth 

me ... 

To the Palaces of the Dead. 
So dark, The wings, the eyebrows and ah, the 

eyes ! , , . 
Go back ! God's mercy ! What scekcst thou ? Let 

me be ! , . , 

(Recovering) Where am 1 ? Ah, and what paths are 
these I tread ? 

ADMETUS, 

Grievous for all who love thee, but for me 
And my two babes most hard, most solitary. 

ALCESTIS. 

Hold me not ; let me lie. 
I am too weak to stand ; and Death is near, 
And a slow darkness stealing on my sight. 

My little ones, good-bye, 
Soon, soon, and mother will be no more here, . . , 
Good-bye, two happy children in the light, 

ADMETUS. 

Oh, word of pain, oh, sharper ache 
Than any death of mine had brought ! 
For the Gods' sake, desert me not, 
For thine own desolate children's sake. 

17 c 



EURIPIDES w. 277-305 

Nay, up ! Be brave. For if they rend 
Thee from me, I can draw no breath ; 
In thy hand arc my life and death, 

Thine, my beloved and my friend ! 

ALCESTIS. 

Admetus, seeing what way my fortunes lie, 
I fain would speak with thec before I die. 
I have set thce before all things ; yea, mine own 
Life beside thine was naught. For this alone 
I die. . . . Dear Lord, I never need have died, 
I might have lived to wed some prince of pride, 
Dwell in a king's house. . . , Nay, how could I, torn 
From thee, live on, I and my babes forlorn ? 
I have given to thee my youth not more nor less, 
But all though I was full of happiness. 
Thy father and mother both 'tis strange to tell 
Had failed thee, though for them the deed was well, 
The years were ripe, to die and save their son, 
The one child of the house : for hope was none, 
If thou shouldst pass away, of other heirs. 
So thou and I had lived through the long years, 
Both. Thou hadst not lain sobbing here alone 
For a dead wife and orphan babes, . . . 'Tis done 
Now, and some God hath wrought out all his will 

Howbeit I now will ask thee to fulfill 
One great return-gift not so great withal 
As I have given, for life is more than all ; 
But just and due, as thine own heart will teli 
For thou hast loved our little ones as well 
As I have. . t . Keep them to be masters here 
In my old house ; and bring no stepmother 
Upon them. She might hate them. She might be 
18 



w.3u<)-;>j3 ALCESTIS 

Some baser woman, not a queen like me, 
And strike them with her hand. For mercy, spare 
Our little ones that wrong. It is my prayer. 
They come into a house : they are all strife 
And hate to any child of the dead wife, . 
Better a serpent than a stepmother ! 

A boy is safe. He has his father there 
To guard him. But a little girl! (Taking the 

LITTLK GIRL to her] What good 
And gentle care will guide thy maidenhood ? 
What woman wilt thou find at father's side ? 
One evil word from her, just when the tide 
Of youth is full., would wreck thy hope of love. 
And no more mother near, to stand above 
Thy marriage-l^d, nor comfort thee pain-tossed 
In travail, when one needs a mother most ! 
Seeing 1 must die. . , . *Tis here, across my way, 
Not for the morrow, not for the third day, 
But now Death, and to lie with things that were. 

Farewell. God keep you happy. Husband dear, 
Remember that I failed thee not ; and you, 
My children, that your mother loved you true. 

LEADER, 

T.ike comfort. Ere thy lord caa speak, I swear. 
If truth is in him, he will grant thy prayer. 

ADMETUS. 

He will, he will ! Oh, never fear for me. 
Mine hast thou been, and mine shalt ever be, 
Lining and dead, thou only. None in wide 
Hellas but thou shalt be Admetus' bride. 
No race so high, no face so magic-sweet 
19 



EURIPIDES w, 334-361 

Shall ever from this purpose turn my feet, 

And children ... if God grant me joy of these, 

Tis all I ask ; of thee no joy nor ease 

He gave me. And thy mourning I will bear 

Not one year of my life but every year, 

While life shall last. , . , My mother I will know 

No more. My father shall be held my foe. 

They brought the words of love but not the deed, 

While thou hast given thine all, and in my need 

Saved me. What can I do but weep alone, 

Alone alway, when such a wife is gone ? . . . 

An end shall be of revel, and an end 
Of crowns and song and mirth of friend with friend, 
Wherewith my house was glad. I ne'er again 
Will touch the lute nor ease my heart from pain 
With pipes of Afric. All the joys I knew, 
And joys were many, thou hast broken in two. 
Oh, I will find some artist wondrous wise 
Shall mould for me thy shape, thine hair, thine eyes, 
And lay it in thy bed ; and I will lie 
Close, and reach out mine arms to thee, and cry 
Thy name into the night, and wait and hear 
My own heart breathe ; " Thy love, thy love is 

near." 

A cold delight ; yet it might ease the sum 
Of sorrow. . * . And good dreams of thee will come 
Like balm, 'Tis sweet, even in a dream, to gaze 
On a dear face, the moment that it stays. 

God, if Orpheus' voice were mine, to sing 
To Death's high Virgin and the Virgin's King, 
Till their hearts failed them, down would I my path 
Cleave, and naught stay me, not the Hound of Wrath, 
Not the grey oarsman of the ghostly tide, 

20 



w. 362-378 ALCESTIS 

Till back to sunlight I had borne my bride. 

But now, wife, wait for me till I shall come 
Where thou art, and prepare our second home. 
These ministers in that same cedar sweet 
Where thou art laid will lay me, feet to feet, 
And head to head, oh, not in death from thec 
Divided, who alone art true to me ! 

LEADER. 

This life-long sorrow thou hast sworn, I too, 
Thy friend, will bear with thec. It is her due. 

ALCESTIS. 

Children, ye heard his promise ? He will wed 
No other woman nor forget the dead, 

ADMETUS. 
Ap;ain I promise. So it shall be done. 

ALCESTIS (giving the children into his arms one 
after the other}. 

On that oath take my daughter : and my son. 

ADMETUS. 
Dear hand that gives, I accept both gift and vow. 

ALCESTIS. 
Thou, iu my place, must be their mother now. 

ADMETUS. 
Else were they motherless I needs must try. 



EURIPIDES w. 370-38$ 

ALCESTIS, 
My babes, I ought to live, and lo, I die. 

ADMETUS. 
And how can I, rorlorn of thee, live on ? 

ALCESTIS. 
Time healeth ; and the dead are dead and gone, 

ADMETUS. 

Oh, take me with thee to the dark below, 
Me also ! 

ALCESTIS. 
'Tis enough that one should go, 

ADMETUS. 

Fate, to have cheated me of one so true ! 

ALCESTIS (her strength f (tiling}. 
There comes a darkness : a great burden, too. 

ADMETUS. 

1 am lost if thou wilt leave me. . . , Wife ! Min< 

own ! 

ALCESTIS, 
I am not thy wife ; I am nothing;. All is gone, 

ADMETUS. 

Thy babes ! Thou wilt not leave them. Raisi 
thine eye. 

7,9 



w-3fy-399 ALCESTIS 

ALCF.STIS. 
I am sorry , . . But good-bye, children ; good-bye, 

ADMETUS. 
Look at thnn ! Wake and look at them ! 

AI.CESTIS. 

I must go, 

ADMETUS. 
What f Dying ! 

AI.CESTIS. 
Farewell, husband f [S/w dies* 

ADMETUS (with a cry), 

Ah ! . , Woe, woe ! 

LEADER. 
Admctus* Queen is dead ! 

[JFliile ADMETUS is weeping silently, and the 
CHOIUIS wit their faces, the LITTLE BOY 
rum up h his <hwl Mother, 

LITTLE BOY, 

Oh, what has happened ? Mummy has gone away, 

And left me and will not come back any more ! 
Father, I shall be lonely all the day. . . . 
Look! Look! Her eyes . . . and her arms not 

like before, 
How the lie , . . 



EURIPIDES W. 400-473 

Mother ! Oh, speak a word ! 
Answer me, answer me, Mother ! It is I. 
I am touching your face. It is I, your little bird. 

ADMETUS (recovering himself and going to the Child}. 
She hears us not, she sees us not. We lie 
Under a heavy grief, child, them and I. 

LITTLE BOY. 

I am so little, Father, and lonely and cold 
Here without Mother. It is too hard. . , . And 

you, 
Poor little sister, too. 

Oh, Father ! 
Such a little time we had her, She might have stayed 

On till we all were old. . . 
Everything is spoiled when Mother is dead. 

[ The LITTLE BOY is taken away, with his Sister, 
sobbing. 

LEADER. 

My King, thou needs must gird thee to the worst, 
Thou shalt not be the last, nor yet the first, 
To lose a noble wife. Be brave, and know 
To die Is but a debt that all men owe. 

ADMETUS, 

I know. It came not without doubts and fears, 
This thing. The thought hath poisoned all my 

years. 

Howbeit, I now will make the burial due 
To this dead Queen. Be assembled, all of you ; 
24 



w. 424-454 ALCESTIS 

And, after, raise your triumph-song to greet 
This pitiless Power that yawns beneath our feet. 

Meantime let all in Thessaly who dread 
My sceptre join in mourning for the dead 
With temples sorrow-shorn and sable weed. 
Ye chariot-lords, ye spurrers of the steed, 
Shear close your horses* manes ! Let there be found 
Through all my realm no lute, nor lyre, nor sound 
Of piping, till twelve moons are at an end. 
For never shall I lose a closer friend, 
Nor braver in my need. And worthy is she 
Of honour, who alone hath died for me. 

[The body <?/* ALCESTIS is carried into the house by 
mourners; ADMETVS follows it. 

CHORUS. 

Daughter of Pelias, fare thee well, 

May joy be thine in the Sunless Houses ! 
For thine is a deed which the Dead shall tell 
Where a King black-browed in the gloom carouses; 
And the cold grey hand at the helm and oar 
Which guideth shadows from shore to shore. 
Shall bear this day o'er the Tears that Well, 
A Queen of women, a spouse of spouses. 

Minstrels many shall praise thy name 

With lyre full-strung and with voices lyreless. 
When Mid-Moon riseth, an orbed flame. 
And from dusk to dawning the dance is tireless ; 
And Carnos cometh to Sparta's call, 
And Athens shineth in festival ; 
For thy death is a song, and a fullness of fame, 
Till the heart of the singer is left desireless. 
25 



EURIPIDES w. 455-4 

LEADER. 
Would I could reach thee, oh, 

Reach thee and save, my daughter, 
Starward from gulfs of Hell, 
Past gates, past tears that swell, 
Where the weak oar climbs thro' 

The night and the water ! 

SECOND ELDER. 
Beloved and lonely one. 

Who feared not dying : 
Gone in another's stead 
Alone to the hungry dead : 
Light be the carven stone 

Above thee lying ! 

THIRD ELDER. 
Oh, he who should seek again 

A new bride after thee, 
Were loathed of thy children twain, 

And loathed of me. 

LEADER. 

Word to liis mother sped, 

Praying to her who bore him ; 
Word to his father, old, 
Heavy with years and cold ; 
a yuick, ere your son be dead I 

What dare ye for him ? " 

SECOND ELDKR. 

Old, and they dared not ; grey, 
And they helped him never ! 
7.6 



vM7-.|3 ALCESTIS 

'Twas* she, in her youth ami pride., 
Rose up for her lord ami died. 
( >h, love of two hearts that stay 
One-knit for c\cr. . . . 

THIRD ELDER. 
*Tis rare in the work! ! God send 

Such bride in my house to be ; 
She should live life to the end, 

Not fail through me. 

f s/s the swg ceases I hen' enters a stranger, walk 
itrongly, hit Iravtl^tahied^ //w/y, and in 
Ills Hw-skin and club $hnv hhn to 
HKRACU-S, 

Hj-RACLJ'A 

Ho ? countrymen ! To Plutrae am I conic 
By now ? And is Admetus in his home ? 

LKADKK. 

Our Kinjj; is in his house, Lord Heracles.- 
fitit say, what neet! brings thcc in days like these 
To Thcssuly uiul I'iieracV walled \"\\\\\ ? 



A quest I follow for the Arrive King. 

LKADKR. 
What privc doth call thec, and to what far place ? 

HERACLES, 
The hors<s of one Dioniedc, in Thrurc. 



EURIPIDES w. 4 8 4 -4c 

LEADER. 

But how, , , . ? Thou know'st not ? Is He strang 
to thee ? 

HERACLES. 
Quite strange. I ne'er set foot in Bistony. 

LEADER. 
Not without battle shalt thou win those steeds. 

HERACLES. 
So be it ! I cannot fail my master's needs. 

LEADER. 
*Tis sky or die, win or return no more. 

HERACLES, 
Well, I have looked on peril's face before. 

LEADER. 
What profit hast thou in such manslayinf* ? 

HERACLES, 
I shall bring back the horses to my Klni*. 

LEADER. 
'Twere nonesuch easy work to bridle them. 

HERACLES. 
Not easy? Have they nostrils breathing flame? 

LEADKR. 

They tear men's flesh ; their jaws are swift with Moo 
28 



I<:> ALCESTIS 

HERACLES, 
Men's flesh ! 'Tis mountain wolves', not horses' food ! 

LEADER. 

Thou wilt sec their mangers clogged with blood, like 
mire. 

HERACLES. 
And he who feeds such beasts, who was his sire ? 

LEADER. 
Arcs, the war-lord of the Golden Targe. 

HERACLES. 

Enough ! This labour fitteth well my large 
Fortune, still upward, still against the wind. 
How often with these kings of Ares' kind 
Must I do battle ? First the dark wolf-man, 
Lycaon ; then 'twas he men called The Swan ; 
And now this man of steeds ! , , . Well, none shall 

see 
Alcmena's son turn from his enemy, 

LEADER, 

J x), us we speak, this land's high governor, 
Admctus, cometh from his castle door, 

Enter AUMKTUS/WH the Castle. 

ADMETUS, 
Zeus-born of Perseid line, all joy to time 1 

HERACLES. 
Joy to Admetus, Lord of Thcssaly ! 

29 



EURIPIDES w, 511-53 

ADMETUS. 
Right welcome were she ! But thy love I kuov 

HERACLES. 
But why this mourning hair, this garb of woe? 

ADMETUS (/;/ a comparatively light tone], 
There is a burial I must make to-day. 

HERACLES. 
God keep all evil from thy children ! 

ADMETUS, 

Nay, 
My children live. 



Is ripe in years. 



Who bore me. 



Alcestis ? 



HERACLES. 
Thy father, if* tis he, 

ADMETUS. 
He livcth, friend, uiul she 

HERACLES. 
Surely not thy wife f 'Tis not 



ADMETUS (his composure a Hit It' shaken}. 

Ah ; two answers share my t hough t ? 
Questioned of her. 

30 



w. 520-528 ALCESTIS 

HERACLES, 
Is she alive or dead ? 

ADMETL T S. 

She is, and is not ; and my heart hath bled 
Long years for her. 

HERACLES. 

I understand no mure. 
Thy woids arc riddles. 

ADMETUS. 

HeariTst thou not of yore 
The doom that she must meet ? 

HERACLES. 

I know thy wife 
Has sworn to die for thce. 

ADMETUS. 

And is it life, 
To live with sucii an oath hung o'er her head ? 

HERACLES (relieved], 
Ah, 
Weep not loo soon, friend. Wait till she be dead. 

ADMETUS. 
He dies who is doomed to die ; he is dead who dies. 

HERACLKS. 

The two are different things in most men's eye$ 
3* 



EURIPIDES vv.52c>- 

ADMETUS. 

Decide thy way, lord, and let me decide 
The other way. 

HERACLES. 

Whu is it that has died ? 
Thou weepest. 

ADMETUS. 

'Tis a woman, It cloth take 
My memory back to her of whom we spake, 

HERACLES. 
A stranger, or of Jdn to thee ? 

ADMETUS. 

Not kin, 
But much beloved. 

HERACLES. 

How came bhe to be in 
Thy house to die ? 

ADMETUS. 

Her father died, and so 
She came to us, an orphan, long ago. 

HERACLES (as though about to depart]. 
'Tis sad. 
I would I had found dice on a happier day* 



w. 537-54-; ALCESTIS 

ADMETUS, 

Thy words have some intent : what wouklst thoi 
say ? 

HERACLES. 

I must find harbour with some other friend. 

ADMETUS. 

My prince, it may not he ! God never send 
Such evil ! 

HERACI.KS. 

*Tis great turmoil, when a finest 
Comes to a mourning house. 



Let the drad die ! 



ADMETUS. 

Come in and rest, 

HKKACT.ES. 



I cannot, for mere shame, 
Feast beside men whose eyes have tears in them. 

ADMETUS. 
The ^ucst-rooms arc apart where thou shalt he. 

HERACLES, 
Friend, let me p;<x I shall jro gratefully. 



EURIPIDES w, 555-5(15 

ADMETUS. 

Thou shalt not enter any door but mine. 

(To an Attendant] Loud in our j;ucst. Unlock tlie 

furthest line 

Of guest-chambers; and bid the stewards there 
Make ready a full least; then close with care 
The midway doors. 5 Tis unmeet, if he hears 
Our turmoil or is burdened with our tears. 

[The Attendant leads HKRACLKS Into the house. 

LEADER. 

How, master ? When within n thing so sad 
Lies, thou wilt house a stranger ? Art thou mad ? 



And had I turned the stranger from my door, 

Who sought my shelter, hiidhf thou praisul me more ? 

I trow not, if my sorrow were thereby 

No whit less, only the more friemlkss I. 

And more, when bards tell tales, were it not worse 

My house should lie beneath the hi ranger's rmsr ? 

Now he is my sun- friend, if e'er [ stand 

Lonely in Argos, in a thirsty land, 

LKADKK. 

Thou callest him thy friend ; how didst thou d.ire 
Keep hid from him the burden of thy rare? 



He never would have entered, had he known 

^My grief. Aye, men may mock what I have done, 

34 



w. 566-594 ALCESTIS 

And call me fool My house hath never learned 
To fail its friend, nor seen the stranger spurned. 

[ADMKTUS goes Into the hou s > 

CHORUS, 

Oh, a House that lovre the stranger, 

And a House for ever free ! 
And Apollo, the Song-changer, 
Was a herdsman in thy fee ; 
Yea, a-piping he was found, 
Where the upward valleys wound, 
'I*o the Id ne from out the manger 
And the sheep from oft the lea. 
And love was upon Othrys at the sound. 

And from deep glens un beholden 

Of the forest to his song 
There came lynxes streaky-golden. 
There came lions in a throng, 
Tawny-coated, ruddy-eyed, 
To that piper in his pride ; 
And shy fawns he would embolden, 
Dappled dancers, out along 
The shadow by the pine-tree's side. 

And those magic pipes a-bl owing 
Have fulfilled thce in thy reign 
By thy Lake with honey flowing, 
By thy sheepfoids and thy grain ; 
Where the Sun turns his steeds 
To the twilight, all the meads 
Of Molossus know thy sowing 
And thy ploughs upon the plain* 
35 



EURIPIDES w, 595-613 

Yea, and eastward thou art free 
To the portals of the sea, 
And Pclion, the un harboured, is but minister to thcc. 

He hath opened wide his dwelling- 
To the stranger, though his ruth 
For the dead was fresh and welling, 
For the loved one of his youth, 
*Tis the brave heart's cry : 
"I will fail not, though I die ! " 
Doth it win, with no man's telling, 
Some high vision of the truth ? 
We may marvel. Yet I trust, 
When man seeketh to be just 
And to pity them that wander, God will raise him from 
the dust, 

\As the song ceases the. doors arc thrown o/>en ana 
ADMKTUS comes before them : it great funeral 
procession is wen moving out. 

AnMKTU'i. 

Most gentle citizens, our dead is here 
Made ready ; and these youths to bear th<: bier 
Uplifted to the grave-mound and the urn. 
Now, seeing she goes forth never to return, 
Bid her your last farewell, as mourners may. 

[ The proceuion waves forward ptist him, 

LEADER, 

Nay, lord ; thy father, walking old ami grey ; 
And followers bearing burial gifts and brave 
Gauds, which men call the comfort of the grave. 



vv. 614-036 ALCEST1S 

Enter PHEKL'J with followers bcuring roles and gifts. 

Pi JERKS. 

I come in sorrow for thy sorrow, son. 
A faithful wife indeed thou hast lost, an 1 one 
Who ruled her heart. But, huwso hard they be, 
We needs must bear these griefs, -Some gifts for thee 
Are here, . . . Yes $ take them. Let them go be- 
neath 

The sod. \Ve both must honour her in death, 
Seeing she hath died, my son, that thou muystlivu 
Nor i be childless. Aye, she would not sjjve 
My soul to a sad old age, mourning for thee. 
Mrthinks she hath made all women's life to be 
A nobler tiling by one great woman's deed. 
Thou saviour of my son, thou stuif in need 
To our wrecked age, farewell ! May some good life 
Jit- thine still in the grave.- -Oil, 'tis a wife 
I/iki* this man needs ; else let him stay unwed ! 

| Tht' aid rntiH has mi wrfkitl ADMKTUS'S 
gtit/urhig indignation . 

APMETUS, 

I called not thee to burial of my dead, 
Nor count thy presence here a welcome thing. 
My wife shall wear no robe that thou canst bring, 
Nor needs thy help in aught. There was a day 
We craved thy lovo, when I WAS on my way 
Urnrhwanl thy love, whit h bade th<v stand aside 
And \v:it eh, grey-bearded, while a young man died ! 
And now wilt mourn for her? Thy fatherhood ! 
Thou wast no true begetter of my blood, 
37 



EURIPIDES -v, 637-669 

Nor she my mother who dares call me child, 

Oh, she was barren ever ; she beguiled 

Thy folly with some bastard of a thrall. 

Here is thy proof ! This hour hath shown me all 

Thou art ; and now I am no more thy son. 

'Fore God, among all cowards can scarce be one 
Like thee. So grey, so near the boundary 
Of mortal life, thou wouldst not, durst not, die 
To save thy son ! Thou hast suffered her to do 
Thine office, her, no kin to me nor you, 
Yet more than kin ! Henceforth she hath all the part 
Of mother, yea, and father in my heart. 

And what a glory had been thine that day, 
Dying to save thy son when, either way, 
Thy time must needs be brief. Thy life has had 
Abundance of the things that make men glad ; 
A crown that came to thee in youth ; a son 
To do thee worship and maintain thy throne 
Not like a childless king, whose folk and lands 
Lie helpless, to be torn by strangers' hands. 

Wilt say I failed in duty to thine age ; 
For that thou hast let me die ? Not so ; most sage, 
Most pious I was, to mother and to thee ; 
And thus ye have paid me ! Well, I counsel ye, 
Lose no more time. Get quick another son 
To foster thy last years, to lay thee on 
Thy bier, when dead, and wrap thee in thy pall. 
/ will not bury thee, I am, for all 
The care ihou hast shown me, dead. Jf I have found 
Another, true to save me at the bound 
Of life and death, that other's child am I, 
That other's fostering friend, until I die. 

How falsely do these old men univ for death, 

38 



w. 670-695 A L C E S T I S 

Cursing their weight of years, their weary breath ! 
When Death comes close, there is not one that dares 
To die ; a^e is forgot and all its cares. 

LEADER. 

Oh, peace I Enough of sorrow in our path 

L strewn. Thou son, stir not thy father's wrath. 

PHERES. 

My bun, whom seekest thou . . . some Lydian thrall, 
Or Phrygian, bought with cash r ... to affright 

withal 

By cursing ? I am a Thessalian, free, 
My father a born chief of Thessaly 5 
And thou most insolent. Yet think not ho 
To fling thy loud lewd words at me and go. 

I got thee to succeed me in my hall, 
I have fed thee, clad thee. But I have no call 
To die for thee. Not in our family, 
Not in all Greece, doth law bid fathers die 
To save their sons. Thy road of life is thine. 
None other's, to rejoice at or repine. 
All that was owed to thee by us is paid. 
My throne is thine. My broad lands shall be made 
Thine, as I had them from my father. . . . Say, 
How have I wronged thee ? What have I kept away ? 
"Not died for thee ?" . . . I as,k not thee to die. 

Thnn lovrst this li'.'ht : shall 1 not love it, I ? . . . 
'Tis n; 1 * 1 n a; 1 ,! 1 there, in the d.uk ; and heir 
Kl}' sunlit time is sJni(, Imt dr;u ; hut dear. 

Thuu hast fought hard enough, Thou duwest 
breath 

39 



EURIPIDES w. 696-713 

Even now, long past thy portioned hour of death, 

By murdering her ... and blanicst my faint heart. 

Coward, who hast let a woman play thy part 

And die to save her pretty soldier ! Aye, 

A good plan, surely ! Thou ncedst never die ; 

Thou canst find alway somewhere some fond wife 

To die for thce. But, prithee, make not strife 

With other friends, who will not save thee so. 

Be silent, loving thine own life, and know 

All men love theirs ! . . . Taunt others, and thou too 

Shalt hear much that is bitter, and is true. 

LEADER. 

Too much of wrath before, too much hath run 
After. Old man, cease to revile thy son. 

AUMETUK. 

Speak on, I have spoken. , , . If my mull of tongue 
Gives pain to thec, why didst thou do me wrong f 

PHKRES. 
Wrong ? To have died for thee were far more wrong, 

ADMETUS. 
How can an old life weigh against a young ? 

PHKRKfi. 

Man hath but one, not two lives, to his use, 

ADMKTUS. 

OL live on ; live, and grow more old than Zeus ! 
40 



w. 714-723 ALCESTIS 

PHERES. 
Because none wrongs thce, thou must curse thy sire 

ADMETUS, 

I blest him. Is not life his one desire ? 

PHKRHS. 
This dead, mcthinlcs, is lying in thy place, 

ADMETUS. 
A proof, old traitor, of thy cowardliness ! 

PHERES. 

Died she through me ? , , That thou wilt hard 
say. 



ADMKTUS (almost breaking 
OGod! 
Mayst thou but feel the need of me some day ! 

PHERES. 
Go forward ; woo more wives that more may die. 

ADMETUS. 

As thou wouldst not ! Thine is the infamy. 

Pin-. RES. 
This light of heavrn is sweet, and sweet a^ain. 

ADMETUS. 

Thy heart is foul, A thing unmeet for men 
41 



JEURIPIDES w. 724-7. 

PHERES. 
Thou laugh'st not yet across the old man's tomb. 

ADMETUS. 
Dishonoured thou sluilt die when death shall conic. 

P UK RES. 
Once dead, I shall not care what talcs arc told. 

ADMETUS. 
Great Gods, so lost to honour and so old ! 

PHERES. 
She was not lost to honour: she was blind. 

ADMKTUS. 

Go! Leave me with my dead. . . , Out fmm m 
mind ! 

PHKRKS, 

I go. Bury the woman thou hast slain, , , , 
Her kinsmen yet may come to thcc with plain 
Question. Acastus hath small place in |w>d 
Men, if he care not for his sister V blood. 

[PHERES goes off^ with hh dtiendanh, ADMI-.TI 
calls after him m he ,{j0<'$. 



Begone, begone, thou and thv hitter m.ife ! 
Be old and childless ~\e have cantnl your laic- 
While your son lives ! For never shall ye he 
From henceforth under the same roof with inc. . 
42 



w. 737-751 ALCESTIS 

Must I send heralds und a trumpet's call 

To abjure thy blood ? Fear not, I will send them 

all . . . 



[PHERES/j now out of \ight ; ADMETUS^/J his 
defiance and seems like a Irobn man. 

But we --our sorrow is upon us ; come 
With me, and let us bear her to the tomb. 

CHORUS. 
Ah me ! 
Farewell, unfalteringly brave ! 

Farewell, thou generous heart and true ! 

May Pluto give thee welcome due, 
And Hermes love thee in the grave. 
Whatever of blessed life there be 

For hi h souls to the darkness flown, 

Be thine for ever, and a throne 
Beside the crowned Persephone. 

[The funeral procession has formed and moves 
sfau/y out, followed by ADMETUS and the 
CHORUS, The stage is left empty, till 
a 6/Wf dwrvfthe Castle opens and there comes 
mil a SERVANT, angry and almost in tears, 

SERVANT. 

Full many a stranger and from many a land 
H.itii lodjrd in thk old ivibllc, and my hand 
Srrvwl them ; but never has there passed this way 
A scurvier ruffian than our guest to-day, 
He saw my master's grief, but all the more 
43 



EURIPIDES w. 752-772 

In he must come, and shoulders througn the door. 

And after, think you he would mannerly 

Take what was set before him ? No, not he ! 

If, on this day of trouble, we left out 

Some small thing, he must have it with a shout. 

Up, in both hands, our vat of ivy-wood 

He raised, and drank the dark grape's burning blood, 

Strong and untempercd, till the fire was red 

Within him ; then put myrtle round his head 

And roared some noisy song. So had we there 

Discordant music. He, without a care 

For all the affliction of Admetus* halls, 

Sang on ; and, listening, one could hear the thralls 

In the long gallery weeping for the dead* 

We let him see no tears. Our master made 
That order, that the stranger must not know. 

So here I wait in her own house, and do 
Service to some black thief, some man of prey ; 
And she has gone, has gone for ever away. 
I never followed her, nor lifted high 
My hand to bless her ; never said good-bye. . . . 
I loved her like my mother, So did all 
The slaves. She never let his anger fall 
Too hard, She saved us alway, . , . And this wild 

beast 
Comes in our sorrow when we need him h-ast ! 

[During the fat few linn HKIWC u-,s h ( t\ <////'//, 
unpmfiwd !y the SMI WIN i 1 , //< / ws - 
evidently hathrtl and ihtnnml hh gurtnent* 
and drunk hh ////, antl t\ urn 1 n-ivt/h/fa n 
gnrhiml ofjlirwm an ln\ lm/,1. /// fn\\htfu\ 
the SKRVANT a little j}tnn it me /* time 
during the following jyW/. 
44 



w. 773-797 ALCESTIS 

HERACLES, 

Friend, why so solemn and so cranky-eyed ? 
tr ris not a henchman's office, to show pride 
To his betters. He should smile and make good 

ch<vr. 

There mmes a guest, thy lord's old comrade., here ; 
And thou art all knitted eyebrows, scowls and head 
IJt'nt, because somebody, forsooth, is dead ! 
Uo!r?e close ! I mean to make thee wiser. 

[The SERVANT reluctantly comes close. 

So. 

Dost comprehend things mortal, how they grow ? . . . 
(To htmwlf} I suppose not. How could he ? ... 

Look this way ! 

Death is a debt all mortal men must pay ; 
Aye, there is no man living who can say 
If life will last him yet a single day. 
On, to the dark, drives Fortune ; and no force 
Can wrest her secret nor put back her course. . . 
I have told thee now. I have taught thee. Alter 

this 

Kat, drink, make thyself merry. Count the bliss 
Of the one passing hour thine own ; the rest 
Is Fortune's. And give honour chicflicst 
To our lady Cypris, giver of all joys 
To man, 'Tin a sweet goddess. Otherwise > 
Let all these questions sleep and just obey 
My counsel. . . Thou believest all I say ? 
I hope so. . . . Let this stupid grieving be ; 
Rise up above thy troubles, and with me 
Drink in a cloud of blossoms. By my soul, 
I vow the sweet plash-music of the bowl 
Will break thy glumncss, loos thee from the frown 
45 



EURIPIDES w. 798-81 

Within, Let mortal man keep to his own 
Mortality, and not expect too much. 

To all your solemn clogs and other such 
Scowlers I tell thee truth, no more nor less- 
Life is not life, but just unhappincss. 

[He offers the wine-bowl to the SERVANT, ivt 
avoids it. 

SERVANT. 

We know all this. But now our fortunes be 
Not such as ask for mirth or revelry. 

HERACLES, 

A woman dead, of no one's kin ; why grieve 
So much ? Thy master and thy mistress live. 

SERVANT. 
Live r Man, hast thou heard nothing of our woe ? 

HERACLES. 
Yes, thy lord told me all 1 need to know. 

SERVANT. 
He is too kind to his guests, more kind than wise. 

BKRAC I.ES. 
Must I go starved because some stramrer dies ? 

SERVANT, 
Some stranger ? Yes, a st ran per verily ! 



w. 812-R22 ALCESTIS 

HERACLES (his manner beginning to change}. 
Is this some real grief he hath hid from me ? 

SERVANT. 

Go, *lrink, man ! Leave to us our master's woes. 

HKRACLKS. 
It sounds not like a stranger. Yet, God knows , . 

SERVANT. 
How should thy revelling hurt, if that were all . ? 

HERACLES. 
Hath mine own friend so wronged me in his hall ? 

SKRVANT, 

Thou earnest at an hour when none was free 

To accept ihee. We were mourning. Thou can 

sec 
Our hair, black wbcs . , . 

HKKACI.KS (-iW^vf/v, in a voice of thunder). 

Who is it that is dead ? 

SERVANT. 
Alcestk, the King's wife. 

HERACLES (overcome). 

What hast them said ? 
AlrestU I , . And ye feasted me withal ! 
4 7 



EURIPIDES w. 823-839 

SERVANT. 
He held it shame to turn thee from his hall. 

HERACLES. 
Shame ! And when such a wondrous wife was gone I 

SERVANT (breaking into tears). 
Oh, all is gone, all lost, not she alone ! 

HERACLES, 

I knew, I felt it, when I saw his tears, 
And face, and shorn hair. But he won mine ears 
With talk of the strange woman and her rite 
Of burial. So in mine own heart's despite 
I crossed his threshold and sat drinking he 
And I old friends 1 in his calamity. 
Drank, and sang songs, and revelled, my head hot 
With wine and flowers! . . . And thou to tell me 

not, 

When all the house lay filled with sorrow, thou ! 
(A pause; then suddenly] Where lies the tomb ? 

Where shall I find her now ? 

SERVANT (frightimf?). 

Close by the straight Larissa road, The tall 
White marble showeth from the castle wall 

HERACLES. 

O heart, O hand, great doings have ye done 
Of old : up now, and show them what a son 
Took life that hour, when she of Tiryns* sot\ 
Electryon's daughter, mingled with her God ! 



w. 840863 ALCESTIS 

I needs must save this woman from the shore 
Of death and set her in her house once more, 
Repaying Adinetus' love, . . . This Death, this black 
And winged Lord of corpses, I will track 
Home. I shall surely find him by the grave 
A-hungcred, lapping the hot blood they gave 
In sacrifice. An ambush : then, one spring, 
One grip ! These arms shall be a brazen ring, 
With no escape, no rest, howe'er he whine 
And curse his mauled ribs, till the Queen is mine ! 

Or if he escape me, if he come not there 
To seek the blood of offering, I will fare 
Down to the Houses without Light, and bring 
To Her we name not and her nameless King 
Strong prayers, until they yield to me and send 
Alcestis home, to life and to my friend : 
Who gave me shelter., drove me not away 
In his great grief, but hid his evil day 
Like a brave man, because he loved me well. 
Is one in all this land more hospitable, 
One in all Greece f I swear no man shall say 
He hath cast his love upon a churl away ! 

[}fo goes fort/I^ just as he /;, in the direct ton of the 
grave. The SERVANT watches a moment 
awl go?s bad Into the ha!L 

[The stage is empty; then ADMETUS and the 
CHORUS return. 

ADMETUS, 
Alas ! 

Bitter the homeward way, 
Bitter to seek 

A widowed house 5 ah me, 

49 i 



EURIPIDES vv. 864-877 

Where should I fly or stay, 
Be dumb or speak ? 
Would I could cease to be ! 

Despair, despair ! 
My mother bore me under an evil star, 

I envy them that are perished ; my heart is there. 
It dwells in the Sunless Houses, afarj afar. 

I take no joy in looking upon the light ; 

No joy in the feel of the earth beneath my tread. 
The Slayer hath taken his hostage 5 the Lord of tfic 

Dead 
Holdeth me sworn to taste no more delight. 

[He throws himself on the ground in despair. 



CHORUS, 

[Each member of the CHORUS ipcaks hh line 
severally, as he passes ADMJETUS, who h 
heard sobbing at the end of each line. 

Advance, advance 5 

Till the house shall give thec cover, 

Thou hast borne heavy things 

And meet for lamentation. 

Thou hast passed, hast passed, 

Thro' the deepest of the River. 

Yet no help comes 

To the sad and silent nation. 
And the face of thy beloved, it shall meet thce 
never, never ! 

50 



w, 878-888 ALCESTIH 

ADMETUS, 
Yc wrench my wounds asunder. Where 

Is grief like mine, whose wife is dead ? 

My wife, whom would I ne'er had wed> 
Nor loved, nor held my house with her, . , . 

Blessed are they who dare to dwell 
Unloved of woman ! 'Tis but one 
Heart that they bleed with, and alone 

Can bear their one life's burden well 

No young shall wither at their side, 

No bridal room be swept by death. . . , 
Aye, better man should draw his breath 

For ever without child or bride. 

CHORUS (as before], 

Tis Fate, 'tis Fate : 

She is strong and none shall break her, 

No end, no end, 

Wilt thou lay to lamentations? 

Endure and be still : 

Thy lamenting will not wake her. 

There be many before thee, 

Who have suffered and had patience. 
~ Though the face of Sorrow changeth, yet her hand 
is on all nations, 

ADMETUS, 

The garb of tears, the mourner's cry : 
Then the long ache when tears are past ! . . , 
Oh, why didst hinder me to cast 
This body to the dust aud die 
5* 



EURIPIDES w. 899-921 

With her, the faithful and the brave ? 
Then not one lonely soul had fled, 
But two great lovers, proudly dead, 

Through the deep waters of the grave. 

LEADER. 

A friend I knew, 

In whose house died a son, 
Worthy of bitter rue, 

His only one. 
His head sank, yet he bare 
Stilly his weight of care, 
Though grey was in his hair 

And life nigh done. 



ADMJETUS. 

Ye shapes that front me, wall and gate, 
How shall I enter in and dwell 
Among ye, with all Fortune's spell 

Dischantcd ? Aye, the change is great. 

That day I strode with bridal song 
Through lifted brands of Pelian pine ; 
A hand beloved lay in mine ; 

And loud behind a revelling throng 

Exalted me and her, the dead. 
They called us young, high-hearted ; told 
How princes were our sires of old, 

And how we loved and we must wed. . * , 

5* 



w, 922-947 ALCESTIS 

For those high songs, lo, men that moan, 
Ami raiment black where once was white ; 
Who guide me homeward in the night, 

On that waste bed to lie alone. 



SECOND ELDER. 

It breaks, like strife. 

Thy long peace, where no pain 
Had entered ; yet is life, 

Sweet life, not slain, 
A wife dead ; a dear chair 
Empty : is that so rare ? 
Men live without despair 

Whose loves are ta'en. 

ADMETUS (erect and facing them}. 

Behold, I count my wife's fate happier, 

Though all gainsay me, than mine own. To her 

Comes no more pain for ever ; she hath rest 

And peace from all toil, and her name is blest. 

But I am one who htith no right to stay 

Alive on earth ; one that hath lost his, way 

In fate, and strays in dreams of life long past. . . , 

Friends, I have learned my lesson at the last. 

I have my life. Here stands my house. But nov 
How dare I enter in ? Or, entered, how 
Go forth again f Go forth, when none is there 
To give me a parting word, and I to her ? . . . 

Where shall I turn for refuge ? There within, 
The desert that remains where she hath been 
Will drive me forth, the bed, the empty seat 
She sat in ; nay, the floor beneath my feet 
S3 



EURIPIDES w. 048-97 

Unswcpt, the children crying at my knee 
For mother j and the very thralls will be 
In sobs for the dear mistress that is lost. 

That is my home ! If I go forth, a host 
Offcasts and bridal dances, gatherings gay 
Of women, will be there to fright me away 
To loneliness. Mine eyes will never bear 
The sight. They were her friends ; they played wit I 
her. 

And always, always, men who hate my name 
Will murmur : " This is he who lives in shame 
Because he dared not die ! He gave instead 
The woman whom he loved, and so is fled 
From death. He counts himself a man withal ! 
And seeing his parents died not at his call 
He hates them, when himself he dared not die ! " 

Such mocking beside all my pain shall I 
Endure. . . , What profit was it to live on, 
Friend, with my grief kept and mine honour gone ? 

CHORUS. 

I have sojourned in the Muse's land, 

Have wandered with the wandering star, 

Seeking for strength, and in my hand 
Held all philosophies that are ; 

Yet nothing could I hear nor see 

Stronger than That Which Needs Must Be. 

No Orphic rune, no Thnidan scroll, 
Hath magic to avert the morrow ; 

No healing all those medicines brave 

Apollo to the Asdcpiad gave ; 

Palo herbs of comfort in the bowl 
Of man's wide sorrow. 
54- 



. 972-1 of $ ALCESTIS 

She hath no temple, she alone, 

Nor im;ifv \V!K re a 111:111 nuy kneel ; 
No blnotl upon her altir-hfone 

Crying shall make her iu-ar nor feel. 
I know thy greatness ; come not great 
Beyond my dreams, (.) Power of Fate ! 
Aye, Zeus himself shall nut unclose 

His purpose save by thy decerning. 
The chain of iron, the Scythian sword, 
It ycilcls and shivers at thy word ; 
Thy heart is as the rock, and knows 
No ruth, nor turning. 

[They turn to ADMKTUS. 
Her hand hath caught thee ; yea, the keeping 

Of iron fingers grips thee round. 
3k* still Be still. Thy noise of weeping 

Shall raise no lost one from the ground, 
Nay, even the Sons of God are parted 

At last from joy, and pine in death. . . 
Oh, dear on earth when all did love her. 
Oh, dearer lost beyond recover : 
Of women all the bravest-hearted 

Hath pressed thy lips and breathed thy breath. 

Let not the earth that lies upon her 

Be deemed a grave-mound of the dead. 
Let honour, as the Gods have honour, 

Be hers, till men shall bow the head, 
And strangers, climbing from the city 

Her slanting path, shall muse and say : 
tt T"hi,4 woman died to save her lover, 
And liveth blest, the stars above her : 
Hail, Holy One, and grant thy pity ! " 

So pass the wondering words away, 
55 



EURIPIDES w. 1006-1023 

I^KABER, 

But see, it is Alcmena's son once: more, 
My lord King, cometh striding to thy door, 

[Enter HERACLES ; his dress is as in the last 
sceney but shows signs of a struggle* liehiml 
come two Attendants, guiding between them a 
veiled Woman^ who semis like one asleep or 
unconscious. The Woman remains in the. 
background while HERACLES comes forward. 

HERACLES, 

Thou art my friend, Admetus ; therefore bold 
And plain I tell my story, and withhold 
No secret hurt, Was I not worthy, friend, 
To stand beside thee ; yea, and to the end 
Be proven in sorrow if I was true to thcc ? 
And thou didst tell me not a word, while she 
Lay dead within ; but bid me feast, as though 
Naught but the draping of some stranger's woe 
Was on thee. So I garlanded my brow 
And poured the gods drink-offering, and but now 
Filled thy death-stricken house with wine and song. 
Thou hast done me wrong, my brother ; a great 

wrong 

Thou hast done me. But I will not add more pain 
In thine affliction. 

Why I am here again, 

Returning, thou must hear, I pray thee, take 
And keep yon woman for me till I make 
My homeward way from Thrace, when I have tuVn 
Those four steeds and their bloody master slain. 
And if-- which heaven avert !I ne'er should see 

56 



77,1024-1050 ALCESTIS 

Hellas again, I leave her here, to be 
An handmaid in thv house. No labour small 
Was it that brought her to my hand at all. 
I fell upon a contest certain Kings 
Had set for all mankind, sore bufferings 
And meet for strong men, where I staked my life 
And won this woman. For the easier strife 
Black steeds were prizes ; herds of kme were cast 
For heavier issues, fists and wrestling ; last, 
This woman. . , . Lest my work should all seem done 
For naught, I needs must keep what I have won ; 
So prithee take her in. No theft, but true 
Toil, won her, . . . Some day thou mayst thank me, 
too, 

ADMETUS, 

'Twns in no scorn, no bitterness to thee, 
1 hid my wife's death and my misery. 
Methought it was but added pain on pain 
If thou shouldst leave me, and roam forth again 
Seeking another's roof. And, for mine own 
Sorrow, I was content to weep alone. 

Rut, for this damsel, if it may be so, 
I pray thee, Lord, let some man, not in woe 
Like mine, take her. Thou hast in Thessaly 
Abundant friends, . . . 'Twould wake sad thoughts 

in me, 

How could I have this damsel in my sight 
And keep mine eyes dry ? Prince, why wilt thou 

smite 
The smitten ? Griefs enough are on my head. 

Where in my castle could so young a maid 
Be lodged- her veil and raiment show her young : 

57 



EURIPIDES w. 1051-1066 

Here, in the men's hall r T should fear some wrong, 

'Tis not so easy. Prince, to keep controlled 

My young men. And thy charge I tain would hold 

Sacred. If not, wouldsthave me keep her in 

The women's chambers , . , where my dead hath 

been ? 

How could I lay this woman where my bride 
Once lay ? It were dishonour double-dyed. 
These streets would curse the man who so betrayed 
The wife who saved him for some younger maid ; 
The dead herself ... I needs must worship her 
And keep her will. 

[During the last few lines ADMETUS has been 
looking at the veiled Woman and, though he 
dm not comdouily recognize ht.r y fceh a 
strange emotion overmastering him. He 
draws buck 

Aye. I must walk with care. . , . 
woman, whosoe'er thou art, thou hast 
The shape of my Alcestis ; thou art cast 
In mould like hers, , . . Oh, take her from mine 

eyes ! 
In God's name ! 

[HRRACLRS sigm to the Attendants h take 
AI.CKSTIS away again* She k///v> wiled 
and nnnotidnir in the 



I was fallen, and in this wise 

Thou wilt make me deeper fall. . . . Mcsccms, mc- 
secms, 



w.iof>7-io8o ALCESTIS 

There in her face the loved one of my dreams 
Looked forth. -My heart is, m;u!c a turbid thin<y, 
Craving I know not what, and my tears spring 
Unbidden. Grief f knew 'twould be ; but how 
Fiery a grief I never knew till now. 

LEADER. 

Thy fate I praise not. Yet, what gift soe'er 
God giveth, man must steel himself and bear, 

HERACLES (drawing ADMETUS on). 

Would God, I had the power, 'mid all this might 
Of arm, to break the dungeons of the night, 
And free thy wife, and make thcc glad again ! 

ADMETUS. 

Where is such power ? I know thy heart were fain ; 
But so 'tis writ. The dead shall never rise. 

HERACLES. 
Chafe not the curb, then : suffer and be wise. 

ADMKTUS. 
Easier to p;ive such counsel than to keep. 

HERACLES, 
Who will he happier, shouldst thou always weep ? 

ADMETUS. 

Why, none. Yet some blind longing a raws me 
on . . . 

59 



EURIPIDES w. 1081-1089 

HERACLES, 
'Tis natural, Thou didst love her that is gone. 

ADMETUS. 

'Tis that hath wrecked, oh more than wrecked, my 
life. 

HERACLES. 

'Tis certain : thou hast lost a faithful wife, 

ADMETUS, 
Till life itself is dead and wearies me. 

HERACLES. 
Thy pain is yet young. Time will soften thee, 

[ The veiled Woman begins dimly , as though in a 
dream^ to hear the words spoken. 

ADMETUS. 
Time ? Yes, if time be death. 

HERACLES. 

Nay, wait ; and some 
Woman, some new desire of love, will come. 

ADMETUS (indignantly}. 
Peace I 
How canst thou f Shame upon thee ! 

HERACLES. 

Thou wilt stay 
Unwed for ever, lonely night and day ? 

60 



w. 1090-1101 ALCESTIS 

ADMETUS. 
No other bride in these void arms shall He. 

HERACLES. 
What profit will thy dead wife gain thereby ? 

ADMETUS. 
Honour j which finds her whcresoe'cr she lies. 

HERACLES. 
Most honourable in thee : but scarcely wise ! 

ADMETUS. 
God curse me, if I betray her in her tomb ! 

HERACLES. 
So be it ! ... 
And this good damsel, thou wilt take her home ? 

ADMETUS. 
No, in the name of Zeus, thy father ! No ! 

HERACLES. 
I swear, 'tis not well to reject her so. 

ADMETUS, 
*T would tear my heart to accept her. 

HERACLES. 

Grant me, friend 

This one boon i It may help thee in the end. 
61 



EURIPIDES w. no2-iiio 

ADMETUS. 
Woe's me ! 
Would God thou hadst never won those victories ! 

HERACLES. 
Thou sharest both the victory and the prize. 

ADMETUS. 
Thou art generous. . . . But now let her go. 

HERACLES. 

She shall, 
If go she must. Look first, and judge withal. 

[He takes the veil off ALCESTIS. 

ADMETUS (steadily refusing to look}. 
She must. And thou, forgive me ! 

HERACLES. 

Friend, there is 
A secret reason why I pray for this, 

ADMETUS (surprised^ then reluctantly yielding. 
1 grant thy boon then though it likes me ill 

HERACLES. 
'Twill like thee later. Now . , , but do my will. 

ADMETUS (beckoning to an Attendant}. 
Take her ; find her some lodging in my hall, 

62 



w.im-mS ALCESTIS 

HERACLES. 
I will not yield this maid to any thrall, 

ADMETUS. 

Take her thyself and lead her in. 

HERACLES. 

I stand 
Beside her ; take her ; lead her to thy hand. 

[Hi! brings the Woman chie to ADMETUS, who 
looks determinedly away. She reaches out 
her arms. 

ADMETUS. 
1 touch her not, Let her go in ! 

HERACLES, 

I am loth 
To trust her save to thy pledged hand and oath. 

[He lays his hand on ADMETUS'S shoulder. 

ADMETUS (desperately). 
Lord, this is violence , . . wrong . . . 

HERACLES. 

Reach forth thine hand 
And touch this comer from a distant land, 

ADMETUS (holding out his hand without baking}* 
Like Perseus when lie touched the Gorgon, there ! 

63 



EURIPIDES w. 

HERACLES. 
Thou hast touched her ? 

ADMETUS (at last faking her hand}. 

Touched her ? . . . Yes. 

HERACLES (a hand on the shoulder of each]. 

Then cling to her 5 

And say if thou hast found a guest of grace 
In God's son, Heracles ! Look in her face ; 
Look ; is she like . . , ? 

[ADMETUS locks and stands amazed. 

Go, and forget in bliss 
Thy sorrow ! 

ADMETUS. 

ye Gods ! What meancth this ? 
A marvel beyond dreams ! The face . . . 'tis she ; 
Mine, verily mine ! Or doth God mock at me 
And blast my vision with some mad surmise ? 

HERACLES. 
Not so. This is thy wife before thine eyes, 

ADMETUS (who has recoiled in his amazement}. 
Beware ! The dead have phantoms that they send . . . 

HERACLES. 
Nay ; no ghost-raiser hast thou made thy friend, 

ADMETUS. 
My wife . . . she whom i buried ? 



w. 1130-1141 ALCESTIS 

HERACLES. 

I deceive 
Thee not ; nor wonder thou canst scarce believe. 

ADMETUS. 

And i hire I touch her, greet her, as mine own 
Wife living ? 

HERACLES. 

Greet her. Thy desire is won. 

ADMETUS (approaching with awe)* 

Beloved eyes ; beloved form ; O thou 

Gone beyond hope, I have thce, I hold thce now ? 

HERACLES. 
Thou hast her : may no god begrudge your joy. 

ADMETUS (turning to HERACLES). 

( ) lordly conqueror. Child of Zeus on high, 
Be blessed ! And may He, thy sire above, 
Save thee, as thou alone hast saved my love ! 

[ He kneels to HERACLES, who raise* him. 
But how . * , how didst thou win her to the light 3 

HERACLES. 
I fought for life with Him I needs must fight. 

ADMETUS. 
With Death thou hast fought ! But where? 

6 5 F 



EURIPIDES 

HERACLES, 

Among his dead 
I lay, and sprang and gripped him as lie fled. 

AJDMETUS (in an awed whisper, looking towards 

ALCESTIS). 
Why standeth she so still ? No sound, no word ! 

HERACLES. 
She hath dwelt with Death. Her voice may not be 

heard 

Ere to the Lords of Them Below she pay 
Due cleansing, and awake on the third day, 
(To the Attendants] So ; guide her home, 

[They lead ALCESTIS to the doorway. 
And thou, King, for the rest 
Of time, be true ; be righteous to thy guest, 
As he would have thee be. But now farewell ! 
My task yet lies before me, and the spell 
That binds me to my master ; forth I fare. 

ADMETUS. 

Stay with us this one day ! Stay but to share 
The feast upon our hearth ! 

HERACLES. 

The feasting day 
Shall surely come j now I must needs away. 



ADMETUS. 

Farewell ! All victory attend thy name 
And safe home-coming ! 

66 



w. irrjj-ufVj ALCESTIS 

Lo, I make proclaim 
To the Four Nations and ail Thessaly ; 
A wondrous happiness hath come to be : 
Therefore pray, dance, give offerings and make full 
Your altars with the life-blood of the Bull ! 
For me . , . my heart is changed ; ray life shall 

mend 
Henceforth. For surely Fortune is a friend. 

[He goes with ALCESTIS Into the house. 

CHORUS. 

There be many shapes of mystery 
Ami many things God brings to be, 

Past hope or fear, 

And the end men looked for cometh not. 
And a path is there where no man thought. 

So hath it fallen here. 



NOTES 

P. 3, Prologue. Asclepios (Latin Aesculapius), son 
of Apollo, the hero-physician, by his miraculous skill 
healed the dead. This transgressed the divine law > so 
Zeus slew him. (The particular dead man raised by 
him was Hippolytus, who came to life in Italy under 
the name of Virbius, and was worshipped with Artemis 
at Aricia.) Apollo in revenge, not presuming to 
attack Zeus himself, killed the Cyclopes, and was 
punished by being exiled from heaven and made 
servant to a mortal. . There are several such stories 
of gods made servants to human beings. 

P. 3, L 12, Beguiling.] See Preface. In the 
original story he made them drunk with wine. 
(Aescli, EumenldeSy 728.) As the allusion would 
doubtless be clear to the Greek audience, I have 
added a mention of wine which is not in the 
Greek. Libations to the Elder Gods, such as the 
Fates and Eumenidcs, had to be " wineless/' Histori- 
cally this probably means that the worship dates from 
a time before wine was used in Greece, 

P. 4, L 22, The stain of death must not come nigh 
My radiance.] Compare Artemis in the last scene of 
the Hippolytus. The presence of a dead body would 
be a pollution to Apollo, though that of Thdnatos 
himself seems not to be so. It is rather 

69 



EURIPIDES 

TMnafos who is dazzled and blinded by Apollo 3 like 
an owl or bat in the sunlipju, 

P. 5, 1. 43, Rob me of my second prey.] "You 
first cheated me of Admetus, rind now you cheat me of 
his substitute." 

P. 6, 1. 59, The rich would buy, etc.] Here and 
throughout this difficult little dialogue I follow the 
readings of my own text in the Bibliotheca Oxvniemh* 

P. 7, 1. 74, To lay upon her hair my sword.] As 
the sacrificing priest cut off a lock of hair from the 
victim's head before the actual sacrifice. 

P. 8, 1. 77, Chorus.] The Chorus consists of 
citizens, probably Elders, of the city of Phcrac. Dr. 
Vcrrall has rightly pointed out that there is some 
general dissatisfaction in the town at Admetu&'s 
behaviour (1. 210 ff.). These citizens come to mourn 
with Admetus out of old friendship, though they do 
not altogether defend him. 

The Chorus is very drastically broken up into so 
many separate persons conversing with one another ; 
the treatment in the Rhesus is similar but even bolder. 
See Rhesus, pp. 28-31, 37-42. Cf. also the entrance- 
choruses of the Trojan Women (pp. 19-23) and the 
Medea (pp. 10-13) 3 ant ^ '* %7 2 ^ ^89 #> PP- 5j 5*> 
below. 

Instead of assigning the various lines definitely to 
First, Second, Third Citizen, and so on, I have put ;i 
"paragraph us" ( ), the ancient Greek si;j[ii for 
indicating a new speaker. 

P. 8, 1,' 82, Pelias' daughter.]-/'./-. Alccsf is. 

P. 8, 1. 92, Paian.]' The Healer, The wort! 
survives chiefly as a cry for help and as an epithet 
or title of Apollo or Asdepios. a Paian,/* Latin 
70 



NOTES 

Paean, is also a cry of victory ; but the relation of 
the* two niranin-s is nor quite made tmt (Pronounce 
rafhiT lib* u Pah-yan.") Cf, I, 220. 

P. 9, 1. in., Tn wandu* oYr leagues of land,] 
You could sometimes save a sick person by appealing 
to an ontcle, such as that of Apollo in Lycia or of 
Zeus Ammon in the Libyan desert ; but now no 
sacrifice will help. Only Asclepios, were he still 
on earth, might have helped us. (See on the Pro- 
logue.) 

P. ix, 1. 150, Tore God she dies high-hearted.] 
What impresses the Elder is the calm and deliberate 
way in which Alcestis faces these preparations. 

P. i?., 1. 162, Before the Hearth-Fire.] llcstia, 
the hearth-fire, was a goddess, the Latin Vesta, and is 
addressed as" Mother/* It is characteristic in Alcestis 
to think chiefly about happy marriages for the 
children, 

P. 12, i. 182, Happier perhaps, more true she 
cannot be.]- -A famous line and open to parody, 
Cf, Aristophanes, Knights, 1251 ( u Another wear 
tin's crown instead of me, Happier perhaps ; worse 
thief he cannot be "). And see on 1. 367 below. 

P. 1 5, L 228, Hearts have bled.] People have 
committed suicide for less than this. 

P. 1 6, 1. 244, () Sun.]- Alcestis has come out to 
see the Si in and Sky for the last time and say good-bye 
to them. It is a rite or practice often mentioned in 
Greek poetry. Her beautiful wandering lines about 
Charon and his boat are the more natural because she 
b not dying; from any disease but is being mysteriously 
drawn away by the Powers of Death. 

P. 1 6,1. 252, A boat, two-oared.] She sees Charon, 



EURIPIDES 

the boatman who ferried the souls of the dead across 
the river Styx. 

P. 17,1. 259, Drawing, drawing.] -The creature 
whom she sees drawing her to "the palaces of the 
dead" is certainly not Charon, who had no wings, but 
was like an old boatman in a peasant's cap and sleeve- 
less tunic ; nor can he be Hades, the throned King to 
whose presence she must eventually go. Apparently, 
therefore, he must be Thanatos, whom we have just 
seen on the stage. He was evidently supposed to be 
invisible to ordinary human eyes. 

P. 18, L 280, Alccstis's speech.]Great sLnplicity 
and sincerity are the keynotes of this fine speech. 
Alcestis does not make light of her sacrifice : she 
enjoyed her life and values it; she wishes one of the 
old people had died instead ; she is very earnest that 
Admetus shall not marry again, chiefly for the 
children's sake, but possibly also from some little 
shadow of jealousy. A modern dramatist would ex- 
press all this, if at all, by u, scene or a series of scenes 
of conversation ; Euripides always uses the long self- 
revealing speech. Observe how little romantic love 
there is in Alcestis, though Admetus is full of it. See 
Preface, pp. xiii, xiv, 

Pp. 19, 20, L 328 ff,, Admetus^ speech.] If the 
last speech made us know Alcestis, this makes us know 
Admetus fully as well. At one time* the beauty and 
passion of it almost make us forget its ultimate hollow- 
ness ; at another this hollowncss almost makes us lose 
patience with its beautiful language. In this state of 
balance the touch of satire in I. 338 f. ( u My mother 
I will know no more," etc,), and the fact that he 
speaks immediately after the complete sincerity of 
72 



NOTES 

Alcestis, conspire to weigh down the scale against 
Admrfus. There run he no doubt that he means, 
and means passionately, all thai he says. Only he 
could not quite manage to die when it was t\ot strictly 
necessary. 

P. ?.o, 1. 355, If Orpheus* voice were mine.] 
The hard and prophet, Orpheus, went down to the 
dead to win hack his wife, Eurydice. Hades and 
Persephone, spell-bound by his music, granted his 
prayer that iuirydice should return to the light, on 
condition that he should go before her, harping, and 
should never look back to see if she was following. 
Just at the end of the journey he looked back, and she 
vanished. The story is told with overpowering beauty 
in Veri'lTs fourth Georgic. 

P. 21, I 367, Oil, not in death from thee 
Divided.] Parodied in Aristophanes' drcharnians 894, 
where it is addressed to an eel, and the second line 
ends <c iu a beet-root fricassee," See on 1. 182. 

P. ?,;$, 1. 393 ff., The Little Boy's speech.] 
Classical Greek sculpture and vase-painting tended to 
represent children not like children but like diminutive 
men ; and something of the sort is true of Greek 
tnvTdv. The stately tragic convention has in the 
main tr> be maintained ; the child must speak a lan- 
guage suited lor heroes, or at least for high poetry, 
The quality .>f childishness has to be indicated by a 
word or so of child-language delicately admitted amid 
the stateliness. Here we have /wm, something like 
a mummy," at the beginning, and PCIXTCPOC, "chicken " 
or "little bird," at the end, Otherwise most of the 
language is in the regular tragic diction, and some 
of it doubtless seems to us unsuitable for a child, Ir 
73 



EURIPIDES 

Milton had had to make a child speak in Paradise 
Lost, what sort of diction would he have given it ? 

The success or ill-success of such an attempt as this 
to combine the two styles, the heroic and the childlike, 
depends on questions of linguistic tact, and can hardly 
be judged with any confidence by foreigners. But I 
think we can see Euripides here, as in other places, 
reaching out at an effect which was really beyond the 
resources of his art, and attaining a result which, 
though clearly imperfect, is strangely moving. He 
gets great effects from the use of children in several 
tragedies, though he seldom lets them speak. They 
speak in the Medea, the Andromache -, and Suppliants^ 
and are mute figures in the Trojan JFomen^ Hecultti^ 
Henit'ksy and Iphigenia in Aulis. We may notice 
that where his children do speak, they speak only in 
lyrics, never in ordinary dialogue. This is very 
significant, and clearly right. 

The breaking-down of the child seems to string 
Admetus to self-control again. 

P. 25, I. 428, Ye chariot-lords.] The plain of 
Thessaly was famous for its cavalry. 

P. 25, I. 436 ff., Chorus.}- Tlic " King black- 
browed " is, of course, Hades ; the "grey hand at the 
helm and oar," Charon ; the " Tears that Well," the 
mere that spreads out from Acheron, the River of 
Ache or Sorrows, 

P. 25, L 445 ft". Alccstis shall be celebrated- and 
no doubt worshipped at certain full-moon feasts in 
Athens and Sparta, especially at the Carncia, a great 
Spartan festival held at the full moon in the month 
Carneios (August-September). Who the ancient hero 
Carnos or Carneios was is not very clearly stated by 

71- 



NOTES 

the tradition ; but at any rate he was killed, and the 
feast was meant to placate and perhaps to revive him, 
Resurrection is apt to be a feature of both rnoon- 
goddesses and vegetation spirits. 

P. 27, 1. 476, Entrance of Heracles.] Generally, in 
the tragic convention, each character that enters either 
announces himself or is announced by some one on the 
stage 5 but the figure of Heracles with his club and 
lion-skin was so well known that his identity could be 
taken for granted. The Leader at once addresses him 
by name. 

P. 27, 1.481, The Argive King.] It was the doom 
of Heracles, from before his birth, to be the servant of 
a worser man. His master proved to be Eurystheus, 
King of Tiryns or Argos, who was his kinsman, and 
older by a day. See Iliad T 95 ff. Note the heroic 
quality of Heracles's answer in 1. 491. It does not 
occur to him to think of reward for himself. 

P.27,1.483,Diomede of Thrace.] This man, distin- 
guished in legend from the Diomede-of the Illad^ was 
a savage king who threw wayfarers to his man-eating 
horses. Such horses are not mere myths ; horses have 
often been trained to fight with their teeth, like carni- 
vora, for war purposes. Diomedes was a son of Ares, 
the War-god or Slayer, as were the other wild tyrants 
mentioned just below, Lycaon, the Wolf-hero, and 
Cycnus, the Swan. 

P. 30, L 511, Right welcome, were she : i.e. Joy.] 
<c Joy would be a strange visitor to me, but I know 
you mean kindly." 

P. 30, 1. 5 1 8 ff.", Not thy wife ? Tis not Alcestis ? ] 
The rather elaborate misleading of Heracles, without 
any direct lie, depends partly on the fact that the 

75 



EURIPIDES 

Greek word yvvij means both " woman " and " wife." 
The woman, not of kin with Admetus but much 
loved in the house, who has lived there since her 
father's death left her an orphan, is of course Alcestis, 
but Heracles, misled by Admetus's first answers, sup- 
poses it is some dependant to whom the King happens 
to be attached. He naturally proposes to go away, 
but, with much reluctance, allows himself to be over- 
persuaded by Admetus. He had other friends in 
Thessaly, but the next castle would probably be 
several miles off. The guest-chambers of the castle 
are apparently in a separate building with a connecting 
passage. 

As to Admetus's motive, we must remember that 
the entertaining of Heracles is a datum of the story in 
its simplest form. See Preface, pp. xiv, xv. In 
Euripides, Admetus is perhaps actuated by a mixture 
of motives, real kindness, pride in his ancestral 
hospitality, and a little vanity. He likes having the 
great Son of Zeus for a friend, and he has never yet 
turned any one from his doors. 

Euripides passes no distinct judgment on this act 
of Admetus. The Leader in the dialogue blames 
him (" Art thou mad ? ") and so does Heracles here- 
after, p. 56. But the Chorus glorifies his deed in a 
very delightful lyric. Perhaps this indicates the 
judgment we are meant to pass upon it. On the 
plane of common sense it was doubtless all wrong, hut 
on that of imaginative poetry it was magnificent. 

P- 35> & 5^9-605, Chorus.] Apollo, worshipped 
as a shepherd god and it singer, harper, piper, etc, 
("song-changer"), hud been himself a stranger in 
this "House that loved the stranger": hence its 



NOTES 

great reward. Othrys is the end of the mountain 
range to the south of Pherae ; Lake Roibeis was just 
across the narrow end of the plain to the north-east, 
beyond it came Mt. Pelion and the steep harbourless 
coast. Up to the north-west the plain of Thessaly 
stretched far away towards the Molossian mountains. 
The wild beasts gathered round Apollo as they did 
round Orpheus ("There where Orpheus harped of 
old, And the trees awoke and knew himj" And the 
wild things gathered to him, As he piped amid the 
broken Glens his music manifold." BacchaCy p, 35). 

P, 37, I 614, Scene with Pheres.] Pheres is in 
tradition the "eponymous hero" of Pherae, i.e. the 
mythical person who is supposed to have given his 
name to the town. It is only in this play that he has 
any particular character. The scene gives the reader 
a shock, but is a brilliant piece of satirical comedy, 
with a good deal of pathos in it, too* The line (691) 
"\nif MQ opMV ^<r>c, inm'pa c ov "ftaiptiv dOKEig 1 ; 
("Thou lovcst the light, thinkest thou thy father 
loves it not ? ") seems to me one of the most charac- 
teristic in Euripides. It has a peculiar mordant beauty 
in its absolutely simple language, and one cannot 
measure the intensity of feeling that may be behind it 
Pheres shows great power of fight, yet on feels his 
age and physical weakness. See Preface, p. xvi. 

P. 40, I 713 ff. The quick thrust and parry are 
sometimes hard to follow in reading, though in acting 
the sense would be plain enough. Admetus cries 
angrily, "Oh, live a longer life than Zeus!" u ls 
that a curse?" says Pheres; "are you cursing 
because nobody dues you any harm ? " (i. since you 
clearly have nothing else to curse for). Admetus : 
77 



EURIPIDES 

a On the contrary I blessed you ; I knew you were 
greedy of life." Pheres : u / greedy ? It Is jw#, I 
believe, that Alcestis is dying for." 

P. 42, I. 732. Acastus was Alcestis's brother, 
son of Pelias. 

P, 43, 1. 747. It is rare in Greek tragedy for the 
Chorus to leave the stage altogether in the middle of 
a play. But they do so, for example, in the Ajax of 
Sophocles. Ajax is lost, and the Sailors who form the 
Chorus go out to look for him ; when they are gone 
the scene is supposed to shift and Ajax enters alone, 
arranging his own death. This very effective scene 
of the revelling Heracles is to be explained, I think, 
by the Satyr-play tradition. See Preface, 

P, 45, 11, 782-785. There are four lines rhyming 
in the Greek here ; an odd and slightly drunken 
effect. 

P. 46, L 805 ff., A woman dead, of no one's kin : 
why grieve so much ? ] Heracles is somewhat 
(C shameless," as a Greek would say ; he had much 
more delicacy when he was sober. 

P, 48, 1. 837 ff. A fine speech, leaving one in 
doubt whether it is the outburst of a real hero or the 
vapouring of a half-drunken man, Just the effect 
intended. Electryon was a chieftain of Tiryns. 
His daughter, Alcmene, theTirynthian Korew Earth- 
maiden, was beloved of Zeus, or> as others put it, 
was chosen by Zeus to be the mother of the 
Deliverer of mankind whom he was resolved to 
beget. She was married to Amphitryon of Thebes. 

P. 49, 1. 860 ff. If Heracles set out straight to 
the grave and Admetus with the procession was 
returning from the grave, how was it they did not 



NOTES 

meet ? The answer is that Attic drama seldom 
asked such ijuestions. 

Pp. 49-54, 11. 861-961. This Threnos, or lamen- 
tation scene, seems to our minds a little long. We 
must remember ( i ) that a Tragedy is a Threnos a 
V ruumpi?/ and, however much it develops in the 
direction <>f a mere entertainment, the Threnos- 
eiement is of primary importance. (2) This scene has 
two purposes to serve ; first to illustrate the helpless 
loneliness of Admetus when he returns to his empty 
house, and secondly the way in which remorse works 
in his mind, till in 11. 935-961 he makes public con- 
fession that he has done wrong. For both purposes 
one needs the illusion of a long lapse of time. 

P. 53, L 945 ff., The floor unswept.] -Probably 
the floor really would be unswept in the house of a 
primitive Thessalian chieftain whose wife was dead and 
her place unfilled ; but I doubt if the point would have 
been mentioned so straightforwardly in a real tragedy. 

i*P' 54-5S? 1- 966 > That which Needs Must 
Be.j Ananke or Necessity. Orphic rune.] The 
charms inscribed by Orpheus on certain tablets in 
Thrace, Orphic literature and worship had a strong 
magical element in them. 

1*' 55> '* 995 ff.> A grave-mound of the dead,] Every 
existing Greek tragedy has somewhere in it a taboo 
grave u grave which is either worshipped, or specially 
avoided or somehow magical. We may conjecture 
from this passage that there was in the time of 
Euripides a sacred tomb near Pherae, which received 
worship and had the story told about it that she who 
lay there had died for her husband. 

Pp, 56-675 II. icoS-eml This last scene <nust 
79 



EURIPIDES 

have been exceedingly difficult to compose, and some 
critics have thought it ineffective or worse. To me 
it seems brilliantly conceived and written, though of 
course it needs to be read with the imagination strongly 
at work. One must never forget the silent and 
veiled Woman on whom the whole scene centres. I 
have tried conjecturally to indicate the main lines of 
her acting, but, of course, others may read it differently. 

To understand Heracles in this scene, one must 
first remember the traditional connexion of Satyrs 
(and therefore of satyric heroes) with the re-awakening 
of the dead Earth in spring and the return of human 
souls to their tribe. Dionysus was, of all the various 
Kouroi, the one most widely connected with resurrec- 
tion ideas, and the Satyrs are his attendant daemons, 
who dance magic dances at the Return to Life of 
Semele or Persephone. And Heracles himself, in 
certain of his ritual aspects, has similar functions. 
See J. E, Harrison, 11wnts t pp, 422 and 365 ff. ? or 
my Four Stages of Greek Religion^ pp. 46 f. This 
tradition explains, to start with, what Heracles and 
this particular sort of revelling Heracles lias to do in 
a resurrection scene. Heracles bringing back the dead 
is a datum of the saga. There remain then the more 
purely dramatic questions about our poet's treatment 
of the datum. 

Why, for instance, docs Heracles mystify Admetus 
with the Veiled Woman . ? To break the news gently, 
or to retort his own mystification upon him ? I 
think, the latter, Admetus had said that " a woman " 
was dead ; Heracles says : " All right : here is c a 
woman * whom I want you to look after." 

Again, what are the feelings of Admetifc himself? 
80 



NOTES 

First, mere indignation and disgust at the utterly tact- 
less proposal: then, I think, in 1061 ff. ("I must 
walk with care" . , . end of speech), a strange dis- 
covery about himself which amazes and humiliates him. 
As he looks at the woman he finds himself feeling 
how exactly like Alcestis she is, and then yearning 
towards her, almost falling in love with her. A most 
beautiful and poignant touch. In modern language 
one would say that his subconscious nature feels 
Alcestis there and responds emotionally to her 
presence ; his conscious nature, believing the woman 
to be a stranger, is horrified at his own apparent 
bareness and inconstancy. 

P. 57, 1. 1051, Where in my castle, etc.] The 
castle is divided into two main parts : a public 
megann or great hall where the men live during the 
day and sleep at night, and a private region, ruled by 
the queen and centring in the thalamos or royal bed- 
chamber. If the new woman were taken into this 
"harem," even if Admetus never spoke to her, the 
world outside would surmise the worst and consider 
him dishonoured, 

P. 66, i 1148, Be righteous to thy guest, As he 
would hare thee be.] Does this mean "Go on being 
hospitable, as you have been," or "Learn after this 
not to take liberties with other guests " ? It is hard 
to say. 

P, 66 ? L x 152, The feasting day shall surely come 5 
iiow I must needs away,] A fine last word for 
Heracles, We have seen him feasting, but that makes 
a small part in his life. His main life is to perform 
labour upon labour in service to his king, Euripides 
occasionally liked this method of ending a play, not 
8t o 



EURIPIDES 

with a complete finish (Greek catattrcphfy but with 
the opening of a door into some further vista of 
endurance or adventure, The Trojan Wcmen ends by 
the women going out to the Greek ships to begin a 
life of slavery ; the Rkfsus with the doomed army of 
Trojans gathering bravely for an attack which we 
know will be disastrous. Here we have the story 
finished for Admetus and Alcestis, but no rest for 
Heracles, See the note att the end of my Trojan 
Wmtn. 



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